Why Archmere Should Start Class at 9 am

Why Archmere Should Start Class at 9 am

Simi Edeki ‘22, Web Editor

Obesity. Anxiety. Depression. Suicide. Millions of high school students face these serious threats every day because of early school start times and sleep deprivation. A National Sleep Foundation poll found that 87 percent of high school students in the United States were sleeping less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours on school nights. A change in circadian rhythms as children move into adolescence makes it very difficult for teens to fall asleep as early as adults. For the average teenager, their sleep cycle starts at 11 pm and ends at 8 am. 

By starting class so early (8 am), Archmere students’ schedules are out of sync with the natural order. To arrive at school on time, many Archmere students need to wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 am, leaving them with less than 8 hours of sleep. Instead, Archmere Academy could begin school later, at 9 am, because of the benefits to students’ academic performance, safety, and health.

Archmere could start school an hour later as it would lead to greater academic success because of the higher quality of sleep. Improved student performance correlates with better sleep quality and longer sleep duration. For example, when the Seattle School District delayed their high school starting time from 7:50 to 8:45 am, students’ grades improved significantly. The tracked students slept on average 34 minutes longer and saw a 4.5 percent increase in grades. Sleep deprivation negatively affects cognitive abilities and leads to impaired attention and memory. If students feel drowsy and are not able to concentrate in the classroom, then they are not learning to the fullest extent. 

Similarly, teens cannot correctly process the information they learn while sleep deficient since memories go through a process of consolidation during sleep. Allowing students to get a full night’s rest will improve their memory, which will, in turn, advance their learning ability. Archmere believes that students’ “character and intellect develop in an environment which challenges students to maximize their talents and abilities” (Archmere Academy Student Handbook). However, starting school so early in the day clearly does not “maximize” students’ abilities; instead, it leads to students so exhausted that they are unable to function in the classroom. Delaying the start of class to 9 am would demonstrate the administration’s true desire to cultivate students’ intellect and academic ability.

In addition to academics, a delayed start time would improve the health of Archmere students. Insufficient sleep in adolescents caused by an early start can lead to an increased prevalence of mental disorders. Sleep deficient teens are more likely to have lower self-esteem, higher rates of mood disorders, and thoughts of suicide. Although the administration may be worried about the repercussions/details of a significant schedule change, Archmere students shouldn’t need to grapple with the mental health impact of an unwillingness to change a hazardous routine.

Additionally, sleep-deprived people tend to have higher levels of obesity. Studies show that people who regularly sleep for under six hours per night are far more likely to have a level of higher than average body mass index. Humans secrete hormones during sleep that help to reduce appetite, energy metabolism, and absorb glucose. Too little sleep disturbs the equilibrium between these and other hormones. To make matters worse, the drowsiness that follows poor sleep may prevent people from exercising, leaving no way to burn the calories. Because of weight gain, sleep deficient individuals are at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. 

Moreover, many students do not have time to eat a healthy breakfast, increasing the potential weight gain. Archmere students face these severe health consequences because of the unnecessarily early first bell. By having such an earlier start, Archmere appears to demonstrate a lack of concern for the student body’s health and well-being. Therefore, Archmere could start at 9 am due to benefits to students’ mental and physical health.

Finally, a later start time would increase student safety. Many Archmere students drive to school each morning, and a majority leave their homes before the sun has risen. Because students don’t sleep long enough, they are especially at high risk of sleepiness while driving. Most of the 100,000 fatigue-related traffic crashes each year involve drivers ages 25 years or younger. Delaying school start times has been proven to mitigate this issue. For example, in one county, a one hour delay in high school start times led to a decrease in the crash rate for young drivers. In the two years following the change of the starting time for teenagers in this county, the average crash rate fell 16.5 percent, while the crash rate for teens for the rest of the country grew 7.8 percent over the same period. Akin to drunk drivers, drowsy drivers cannot correctly operate motor vehicles because of impaired cognitive ability and slower reaction times. 

Also, many students leave their homes before sunrise, leaving them driving on dark and hazardous roads. Archmere students would be safer drivers if they could sleep the recommended 8-10 hours, but are currently unable to because of such an early school day. In addition to higher rates of car accidents, sleep deprivation can lead to increased drug use. Teens who report having insufficient sleep are more likely to smoke cigarettes, use marijuana, and drink alcohol. Researchers associated each less hour of sleep with a 37 percent increase in the likelihood of using illicit substances. Sleep deficiency shuts down the prefrontal cortex, the area that controls decision making. Reckless decisions, combined with sleep loss related anxiety, may cause students to look at drugs for relief. 

Archmere Academy regards the use of illegal drugs and alcohol as “an extreme threat to the safety and well-being of our students and their development into young adults” (Archmere Academy Student Handbook). With a change in policy, the students would get the sleep they need and Archmere would demonstrate its commitment to promoting a drug-free student body. Archmere students cannot make proper decisions concerning drugs and alcohol, especially when they are stressed out and faced with peer pressure, while sleep deficient. Thus, Archmere Academy should start school later to protect the students’ well-being. 

In short, Archmere should start class at 9 am due to its benefits for students’ performance, health, and safety. As an institution of learning, Archmere should want its students to meet their intellectual potential, but the early start time hinders students’ abilities. The hassle of creating new sports schedules or bus routes is clearly worth the benefits of the delayed start. 

Imagine a school with cheerful students that don’t rely on coffee to get through first period; a school where students don’t fall asleep as they drive and endanger the lives of the people around them; a school where the student body doesn’t suffer from mental health issues as a result of sleep deprivation. This is Archmere with a 9 am start time. This is a better Archmere.