Finishing School Before the Sun Goes Down

Growing teens need a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep to function at high levels during the day. In order to satisfy this need, some schools are starting classes later so the kids can get enough sleep. That’s the point of an August 2014 article from Time magazine, “School Should Start Later So Teens Can Sleep, Urge Doctors.”

The shadows fall early on a December afternoon. Our AVSC alpine team trains gates until there’s barely enough light to see. After practice, the team watches video.  When we get home I am burned out from the day.

As a heavily scheduled student/athlete, starting my school day later would not allow me enough time to complete either my workouts or my academics and may set me up to fail. This would also impact teams that must travel after school as well as groups that meet to discuss things like Legos and foreign languages.

“When it comes to the importance of sleep, it’s all about the biology, say pediatric experts,” according to the Time article.

The article goes on to say, “The American Academy of Pediatrics supports pushing back start times for older kids, particularly teens, because it’s better for their mental and physical health.”

Having an extra hour of sleep does sound pretty good. Teens tend to stay up late, but for me, it’s not worth the tradeoff.  Some of the experts disagree.

“Puberty may biologically wire teens to stay up late and wake up late—which means that forcing them to bed earlier won’t do much good. Something about the hormonal changes occurring during that period of development shifts their body clocks, which regulate the balance between sleeping and waking, later, like daylight savings in reverse,” the AAP committee said.

Yet I believe there are other ways for teens to get their sleep. One way is to go to bed earlier. I go to bed around 10:30 p.m., which people might think is early but I’m usually exhausted by that time. During the winter, there is no time to catch up on sleep and homework so I can’t ever fall behind.

While changing the start time of school appears to be an easy solution for some districts, in an active area like Aspen, where there are many activities and sports available, it probably wouldn’t fly. Better to have another cup of coffee in the morning so you can finish school before the sun goes down.