No question about it: Later start time essential to success


The Mirror reporter

A typical Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) student wakes up at 6:00 a.m. every week day to get ready for school. School starts at 7:30 a.m. and goes to 2:58 p.m. and then there’s after-school activities.

After-school activities can last as long as three hours and go until 6:00 p.m. Then, the students go home, eat dinner, and do homework. By the time the student starts their homework they have had no rest for over 12 hours and are exhausted.

Not getting enough sleep limits people’s ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. Sleep is the food for the brain. We all need it and if we don’t get enough of it, it will affect how we perform throughout the day.

I did an experiment with my normal sleep schedule. I usually fall asleep around 10:00 p.m. but I decided to go to bed at 8: 00 p.m. The results were fascinating. As a result of getting an extra two hours of sleep I had more energy the next day and felt more focused.

It’s not feasible to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. but starting the school day later would give students the extra sleep they need.

If the school day started an hour later at 8:30 a.m., students would get an extra hour of sleep which would make students more focused for the school day. Students then could produce better grades and better athletic performances.

In the late 1990’s, a suburb of Minneapolis, Edina, conducted an experiment involving student sleep. Edina moved their student start time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and asked University of Minnesota researchers to find if there was an impact in their change.

The results were shocking. Students reported feeling less depressed and less sleepy during the day and more empowered to succeed.

After the Edina experiment, the whole Minneapolis Public School District shifted times for its 57,000 students and the results were, again, positive. Attendance rates rose as well as their academic success.

Not only was I surprised by the results of the Edina study and how students were more equipped to succeed, but also how students felt less depressed when they had more sleep. Sleep has proven to improve not only physical health but also mental health.

Many could argue that having the school day start later would affect the after-school activities and the bus schedule. My argument to that is if the district moves all grade levels to a later start time then the bus could run their schedule but just later in the day. As for the sports schedule, practice will end later but students could stay up later to complete any work they may have.

I’m confident that if SPASH started its school day later, attendance would rise, students would be more focused and athletic and academic success would grow.