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The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

The Student News Site of the Latin School of Chicago

The Forum

Just 25 More Minutes?

Michael Gross

Every “even” day at Latin School of Chicago, students meander the hallways with noticeably more energy. On those days, long block does not start until 8:25 a.m. – an extra 25 minutes of sleep.

This different “even” day atmosphere supports the renewed momentum around the 20-year movement for a later start to the high school day.   A recent study at the University of Minnesota analyzes data from over 9,000 students at eight high schools in three states and finds that later high school start times improve student grades and overall health. According to the Chicago Tribune, “in the past decade, school districts in 20 states from Alaska to Florida have pushed back starting times.”

With these studies, the National Sleep Foundation has attempted to address the problem of teenage sleep deprivation, stating, “sleep is food for the brain,” and “skipping sleep can be harmful – even deadly.” During adolescence, “biological sleep patterns shift toward later times,” as the sleep hormone melatonin releases 1-2 hours later than in pre adolescent years,  and it becomes “natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.”.   Adding to the teenage late night syndrome, the stimulating blue light from electronic devices tricks the brain into sensing daylight, which also slows the onset of sleep.  Not getting enough sleep “limits your ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems” – integral skills when it comes to school. So, what seems as a simple nuisance can actually be incredibly harmful to high school students as they embark on some of the most important years of their lives.

While Latin’s earliest start – 8:00 a.m. – is later than the average American school start time of 7:20 am, there are still students dozing off on those “odd days.”

Senior Aidan Sarazen loves the 8:25 days. On average, he goes to sleep between 12:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. every night, and “setting [his] alarm twenty five minutes later every other day is a fantastic feeling.”

On the National Sleep Foundation website, it reports that teens need 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night to function at their max potential, meaning for Aidan, and most Latin students, school should begin at approximately 10 a.m., which might result in a more vibrant student body every day of the week.

Not all students love that idea. Senior Miles Baker, teammates with Aidan on the cross country team, brings up the issue of sports practices: “Don’t get me wrong, I love sleep, but if we start at 10 [a.m.] then I probably won’t get home from practice until 8:30. I don’t think I could focus on homework that late in the evening.”

Although research has shown the severe effects, it is challenging to effectuate a significant shift in the nation’s traditional patterns, especially with the sports practices, as Miles mentioned, as well as other extracurricular activities.  A renewed focus on school accountability is prompting even earlier school starts – some schools as early as 6:30 a.m. With this, several students are dismissed before 1 p.m., which most administrators argue is beneficial for kids who have to work after school. Given the two opposite sides of the spectrum – students who need more sleep and students who need more time to balance work and school – the push for a later start will continue to face heavy opposition.

Switching off every day – between 8:00 a.m. and 8:25 a.m. starts – Latin has served as a perfect guinea pig to test the success or failure of later starts. And with some schools’ auditors and board members forcing top administrators to step down on the issue of starting times, it seems as if the pressure is on. After several years of switching-off, it may be time to make all days 8:25 days, because that extra 25 minutes in the morning can make all the difference.]]>

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    gmillerSep 16, 2014 at 3:18 am

    Great article Michael! 25 min makes a huge difference!!!!!!!! Everyone is happier, or at least more awake, on “even” days than on “odd” ones. Even if people don’t get more sleep, they have 25 extra mins to themselves (time to eat a nice breakfast, get ahead on homework, do absolutely nothing for once, etc). While Miles has a point about sports practices getting pushed back, which could be an unfavorable change, I think a start time of 9am is a happy medium.

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Just 25 More Minutes?