Is Biology to Blame?

If you have taught teenagers, then you know to expect sleepy students during the first periods of the day. While we may be apt to chide students for not getting enough sleep, researchers say this may be due to simple biology.

Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep and tend to stay up late. In contrast, adults require around 6 hours of sleep and tend to go to sleep earlier. While we may be bright-eyed and perky at 8 am, our students may be struggling to keep their systems active as they fight the biological tendencies of their own bodies; their circadian rhythms change during puberty.

In the linked article, one group of Kentucky high schools started school one hour later and the number of students getting 8 hours of sleep went up almost 15%. Automobile crash rates for teenagers in that area also declined while rising everywhere else in the state.

Obviously, student activities and diet can affect their sleep patterns at night and their behavior in the morning, but moving the starting times of high schools one hour could help students be more productive and more safe. My school starts at 8:15 am, but we also offer extra courses at 7:00 am though they are rarely run because of too few students enrolling. We also have Monday late starts beginning at 9:45 am for students (7:45 am for teachers), but Mondays ironically enough have the highest tardy rates.

Also, other effects would be felt. Sports and activities would run later, after-school jobs would be affected, and driving schedules could suffer for parents and students alike.

Still, I wouldn’t mind trying this.

2 thoughts on “Is Biology to Blame?

  1. Angela

    I’m not surprised that the tardy rate is highest on the day when school starts the latest. Somehow the human brain registers late starts as “I-can-sleep-until-ten-minutes-before-I-need-to-be-there!”. For example, on planning days, teachers in my district need to be in their rooms by 8 am. The majority of us manage to be in our classrooms by 7:30 on school days, yet an 8:00 start time is just unmanageable and we roll in around 8:15. No matter how much you give people, it’s never enough. I think your school could start at 10:30 on Mondays and the same thing would happen.

  2. mz.w

    im all for it. even at the age of 30, i prefer to go to bed at say 2am and get up at 11am. late start days didn’t equal more tardies when we had them.


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