Does school start too early?

As college students, we have the blessing to be able to close when we will take our classes – we wouldn’t have to wake up until 1 pm if we wanted to. However, there are the unlucky few who must get up at ungodly hours for 8 and 9 ams, as do all high school kids and middle school kids. While thinking about the half asleep college student dragging himself to his 8am, you have to wonder: can school time affect school performance?

Null Hypothesis: School times do not affect school performance

Alternative Hypothesis: School times do affect school performance

How early do most schools start?

According to Science News for Students, most schools start anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 am. The earliest class available for Penn State, for example, is 8am. However, this means that teenager has to get up at around 5-5:30 in order to start getting ready and preparing for the day. Considering most teenagers don’t go to sleep much earlier before midnight (most wait to sleep till later as well), that leaves anywhere between 5-7 hours of sleep for the student. While that may seem like a lot (for college students it does), the recommended amount of sleep for teens is around 9 hours, so we are severely lacking

What’s the biggest problem with schools starting early?

This biggest issue is the simplest one: teens aren’t getting enough sleep. According to Science News for Kids, waking up so early causes students to lose a big part of their REM cycle – or deep sleep. Why is this important? Because it is during REM that the brain recharges and prepares for the day ahead. When REM is lost, the brain and body lacks the energy to keep focus, regulate mood swings, and can lead to mood disorders and weight gain.

Why does losing sleep affect a student’s learning?

Losing sleep can negatively impact a student’s learning because a student cannot be fully invested and class and activities without the proper amount of rest. According to School Start Time, losing sleep will cause the students to not pay attention, lose motivation, lose focus, not retain memory, and negatively affect basic cognitive ability such as making decisions, elaborating on ideas (or even remembering them), and will cause students to lose creativity and elaborate thinking processes.

How can we fix this?

According to School Start Time, when students go to bed earlier and wake up later, their grades tend to improve. Students also need to sleep the appropriate amount (again, around 9 hours) on the weekends to prepare themselves for the week ahead. Unfortunately, do to the high controversy of this matter between school boards, teachers, and the students themselves, most studies on how school times affect academic performance are either not well researched or suffer from the file drawer problem (in other words, no one bothered to publish them or make them known).


While there appears to be evidence linking school start times and cognitive performance, we can neither reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis. This is because not enough research has been done on this subject, and it will take numerous, extensive studies to get a definitive answer.

However, there is enough evidence where it is logical to take reasonable steps in order to get more sleep.

As a college student who rarely gets more than 5 hours of sleep a week, I strongly recommend catching up on sleep however you can, whether it be through naps, staying in on the weekends, etc. Losing sleep is detrimental to your health and well being, so try and rest as much as you can.

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8 thoughts on “Does school start too early?

  1. Jeffrey Sherman

    I absolutely agree with you that school times should we pushed back, especially with schools like my high school where I had to wake up at 6:30. This means if I went to bed at midnight, I would only get six and half hours of sleep (You can check my math). This falls below the recommended average of the minimum of 7 hours of sleep for an adolescent, and that is if I was fortunate enough to go to bed before midnight. Forcing students to wake up early to accommodate bus companies is simply a disservice to student, not allowing them to get enough sleep and reach their full potential. Sleep is essential to your health, and I simply couldn’t get enough.

  2. Anthony Frank Trobiano

    This is a very well written blog. I completely agree that school starts way too early. We are very lucky to be able to pick the times we go to class based on our comfortability. Some students like waking up early and have no problem with it while others have a tough time getting up and going to class. Here is a very educational article having to do with school starting too early and students lack of sleep.

  3. Devon Green

    I think school does start way too early for high schoolers at least. The teen years are when the brain is developing so much and going through so much and needs all the rest it can get. Seeing as grade schools starts later than high schools never really added up to me. For reasons like sports and jobs after school I can see why they would want to start high school earlier but for the mental health of the students it wasn’t a good decision and still isn’t.

  4. Matthew Hogan

    This is a great post. We are not reaching our full potential without the full amount of sleep we need. Unfortunately I have an 8am class this semester and it is definitely the class that I am the least attentive in. Luckily it is a small class s it helps me to pay attention, but it is evident that me and the entire class is too tired to learn. My high school started at 7:30 which I always thought was way to early. My first period class would always be so boring despite who the teacher was or which friends I had in my class because everyone was too tired to be peppy and energized. My high school just changed the start time to 8 this year, of course right after I leave. although I still don’t think it would’ve helped very much. I think the bet start time would be 10.

  5. lkv5058

    Great post! I’ve always wondered myself if pushing school back to a later time would be more effective. It seems like all the studies show it would. I think the main problem, however, is students who work outside of school. If you have a job or responsibilities that need to be taken care of at home, a 10:30-5:30 school day would not be easy to work around. I think a smart thing to do would be to make high school courses more similar to college courses where students can decide what time work best for them. This freedom would allow students to sleep in if they have the time or get classes out of the way early if need be. Thanks for sharing!

  6. William Joseph Robbins-cole

    Last year my school moved the start time back half an hour. While the time difference may not make a difference to my cognitive functioning the sleep i gained helped me focus. I began to perform better in my classes after I gained the extra sleep. I would argue the school times should be pushed back and hopefully the results in the general public would be the same I experienced.

  7. Sean Patrick Hickey

    I always felt that in high school I didn’t perform my best in my early classes simply because I was never very alert. I don’t know many people who are fully alert and ready to go at 8 in the morning, I know I’m not. And trying to solve for x while I’m half awake is not fun. I think schools should start a little later like around 9 or 9:30, this won’t guarantee that kids don’t come in tires but it will help to make sure kids are more alert in class than before. but until then here is a link for anyone with 8 am’s on how to be alert

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