Why Is It Bad To Start School Early? Science Says Early Start Times Can Lead To Chronic Sleep Deprivation
No matter how “in” you are with your professor, or how well you can write a term paper, your overall performance in the classroom weighs heavily on how alert you are for the lesson. Even though skip-the-line Starbucks orders can provide some much-needed assistance before the sun has fully risen, the truth is a sizable handful of millennials fail to get a decent night's sleep, especially when the day starts promptly at 8 a.m. A recent study performed by researchers from the University of Nevada-Reno and Open University in the UK explored why it's bad to start school early, and the results show, in addition to increasing the risk of not meeting the FDA-recommended six to eight hours of sleep, early-bird classes can poorly affect students' brain functionality.
Listen, I sympathize. Heading to bed early is nearly impossible when you're trying to balance class work, internships, and a relatively active social life. I wasn't always the up-and-at-'em morning person I am today. In college, and especially in high school, it wasn't uncommon for me to hit snooze five times over before rolling out of bed, groggily throwing on yoga pants and a t-shirt, and booking it to class.
Personally, once I'm awake, I'm generally good to go, but for some people, early is early, and no matter how high the caffeine content may be in your to-go cup, it's not always easy to shake out of a morning slump, let alone absorb lectures and take tests. But we can't completely blame universities for our lack of a good sleep here.
Sleep deprivation can start as early as middle school.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. in order to avoid both health and academic discrepancies. On the one hand, routinely waking up early will prepare teens for work hours in their adult life. And parents and teachers just love reminding us about how practice makes perfect, right? But on the other hand, kids aren't adults. They're kids.
Lisa L. Lewis reported for Slate that “kids' body clocks shift when they hit adolescence, making it harder for them to fall asleep until about 11 p.m.” In other words, it's almost impossible to meet the recommended amount of sleep each night if teens are forced to wake up as early as 7 a.m., and it's simply because their bodies aren't wired that way.
However, how your body feels and functions in the morning can also be due to genetics.
It turns out “early birds” and “night owls” aren't just cutesy labels to call ourselves in casual conversation. These categories are scientifically known as “chronotypes,” which define how an individual will sleep during a 24-hour period.
Overall, though, up to 83 percent of students said in a survey that they feel they'd perform better in school if colleges allowed them to choose the time they started their day.
Sociology professor and study author Mariah Evans told NPR,
There has been evidence over time from specific studies indicating that teenagers' body clocks are set at a different time than older folks. Medical research suggests that this goes on well into your 20s, so we decided to look at college students.
Generally speaking, the best time to start the school day is 11 a.m. at the earliest.
Of course, not all subjects or professors offer classes later in the day. This will ultimately depend on the university. However, if students can finagle their lessons to start at or around 11 a.m., research shows functionality can significantly improve.
Researcher Jonathan Kelley told NPR,
It has nothing to do with laziness. It's not in their control. It's to do with their bodies. It's like making an adult wake up at 5 a.m. every single day. It is just not a good idea.
A major perk of being a college student is that you have the freedom to create a schedule that caters to your individual needs, so if you do consider yourself an early bird, awesome! You'll have first pick for those early-riser lectures, guaranteed. But if you have to put a significant amount of effort in just to keep your eyes open come 8a.m., avoid those early classes as much as you can.