BY DARIAN TRABOLD
ONLINE SPORTS SECTION EDITOR
The Miami-Dade school voted unanimously to start testing out later school times for middle and high school students in the 2020 school year. This comes after a two-year study in Boston, Seattle and Hillsborough County that showed later start times helped students get more sleep. Moreover, the county surveyed 1800 students and about 80 percent said they were not getting enough sleep. Starting high school later is the best option for improving not only teenagers’ health but, also their grades.
Sleep has a huge impact on mental and physical health in teenagers. Studies show links between sleep deprivation and diabetes, depression, suicidal thoughts and many other health problems. Approximately 20 percent of teens experience depression before they turn 18 and the number is rising. The recommended amount of sleep for teenagers is at least eight hours. However, 46 percent of high schools start before 8 a.m., meaning most students would have to be in bed by 9 p.m. to get nine hours of sleep, which for many is not possible with the large amount of homework and after school activities students may have. It is not fair to tell students they need to get eight hours of sleep to then make them wake up in the early hours of the morning to go to school. One way to help fix all of these health issues related to lack of sleep would be to start school later so students can wake up more alert and ready to begin their day.
In Seattle, public schools moved the start time from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and according to a University of Washington study on the Seattle schools, students were more “alert and engaged in class, absences and tardiness decreased and final grades increased by 4.5 percent.” Results such as this is one of the main reasons Miami-Dade voted to push back their start time. If students are able to wake up later, it allows them to focus more in class, which improves their grades. Many students face a lot of pressure at home to perform well academically, but if they do not get enough sleep, they can not perform to their full potential. The direct correlation between higher grades, test scores and sleep cannot be ignored; students deserve to be given a fair shot at performing their best by pushing back start times.
Not only will more sleep improve students’ health and grades, but it could reduce casualties caused by sleep deprivation. The leading cause of death in teenagers, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is car accidents. Drowsy driving is a factor of 10 to 20 percent of fatal crashes. Driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, so making students drive early in the morning when many have not had enough sleep is not only putting a teen’s life at risk, but other people as well. Moreover, in places where it snows in the winter, many of the roads are icy early in the morning, when most students are leaving for school. When Wyoming voted to push start times to 8:55 a.m., car accidents involving teens dropped 70 percent in Wyoming over a two-year period. Tired students, plus inexperienced drivers on icy roads is a recipe for disaster.
For students to have the greatest opportunity to succeed, it starts with letting school start later. No child should have to wait at a bus stop at 4:50 a.m. or drive to school when they are not alert enough to prevent an accident. School boards across the country should follow Miami-Dade and start school later, not only for grade increases, but also health improvements.