Studies Show School Starts Too Damn Early


Before I launch into a perfectly argued, well-supported-by-both-passion-and-evidence post about why schools (and most things) start too damn early, let me assure you it is NOT because I am a dyed-in-the-feathers night owl who needs five espressos, 12 sun salutations, eight Hail Marys, a bath poured from pure Red Bull, and three lines of meth to get going in the morning.

Nor is it because my otherwise perfect daughter is forced to show up to class out of breath, after the Pledge of Allegiance with one only braid, unmatched socks, and frosting stains from the previous weekend’s birthday party on her face (even though it’s now Thursday.)

No, it would not be that at all. It’s all about the welfare of the teenagers, who I love when they’re not speeding down my street, walking on my lawn, spraying boozy whipped cream down their throats or doing this sick sexting stuff I’ve been hearing about on the evening news.

It's because we end up making those teens start out the day sleepless and groggy, and hence pretty much guarantee that they’ll stay that way for the rest of the day, unless they catch up on their dozing during Trig. Some of the nation’s high schools start as early as 7 a.m. I’d thought this was an ugly urban myth designed to scare children (and me), but apparently it’s true. Some 80 percent of kids from grades 6 to 12 don’t get the recommended amount of nightly rest, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Granted, those guys are totally biased in favor of sleep. But they’ve got a point. As the Los Angeles Times puts it:

Overtired kids, studies suggest, struggle with depression. They gain weight and get in more car accidents. Their grades suffer. And many turn to caffeine, with questionable results for productivity and unknown effects on the development of young brains.

Yes, the world is a tyranny of early risers, who force the rest of us to conform to their ways. They are everywhere, pushing some archaic, Founding Fathers-style notion that somehow sleeping through the sunrise is decadent. Well, just like the Founding Fathers, I think these folks are slave masters and it’s time for the rest of us to rise up. And some schools are doing it already. Like two -- one urban, one suburban -- in Minnesota.

The results:

Students were noticeably more alert in the first two periods of the day. The cafeteria was calmer. There were fewer fights in the halls. Students, who were now getting nearly an hour more sleep each night, said they felt less depressed. They were raising their hands instead of falling asleep at their desks. Even parents thought their kids were easier to live with.

I am not saying we need to wait until 10. But 9 a.m. is utterly reasonable. My small-town Utah elementary school started at 9:15, and this was the kind of hard-assed place where they never canceled school even in subzero temperatures, forbade shorts and sandals, and suspended you if you used a word like “hard-assed.”

Yes, I understand it may be tough to get childcare before school for parents. But wouldn’t it be easier to pay for one hour then, than for two and three after school?

And the primary argument you hear against it: “What about the sports?” You can’t have kids practicing into the darkness." Somehow pre-dawn darkness is just fine though, as my freshman basketball coach will tell you. And the notion that we would let the concerns of the football program determine what’s best for a school (more than it already does, I mean) should be laughed out of the classroom. Besides, shortening football practice will, you know, lessen the kids’ likelihood of paralysis or future Parkinson’s. So there’s that.

Oh, and also, Red Bull’s expensive. And you wouldn’t believe what they’re charging for meth these days.


Image via Flickr/MCQuinn

education, high school, grades, in the news, kid sleep, sports, teens


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Christeen Conrad

If they are going to bed at a decent time then it shouldn't be a problem on what time they get up. I'm not seeing how it's too early. I felt that way until I grew up and really learned what too early is.

ocmom... ocmommy2two

School DOES start way too freakin' early. Teenagers need their sleep.

Sara Reibslager Tripp

My son is in third grade and his elementary school starts at 7:30am.  It is hard getting him up and ready for school especially during sports.  Sometimes we are not getting home from practice or games until 8:30-9pm.  Once you feed them again and get them to bed it can be 9:30pm and then they have to be back up at 6am for school.  Some of the kids we know have sports that run even run later than 10pm.  By the time Friday rolls around he is exhausted....

bwill626 bwill626

Amen! I'm a teacher - I feel your pain! We have to be at school at 6:45 am. SERIOUSLY?!


Are we going to school or staying up late at night to play sports or do other things? GO TO BED EARLIER! We've been going to school this early for my whole life (I'm 53) and other than stay in school until 5, what would you suggest? I wanted my kids to start school at 8:30 so they'd get home at 4:00 and have part of an evening. If you go to bed on time or in time to get enough sleep for you, there wouldn't be a problem. Everyone thinks eduction is the most important thing and then you read crap like this. Next thing you'll want a 3 day school week so your little darlings can get caught up on rest!? School should come before anything else. This is one of the dumbest things I've read in quite a while.

Ola Beaverhousen

oh my god, I'm so glad I discovered you!! YOU ARE HILARIOUS!

Memph... MemphisSuzi

I wish that school started later simply because I have to work from 8 - 5, yet my child goes to school from 715 - 230...umm what the heck do they think parents are supposed to do in the gap?  Pay for pricey after school care OR have latch-key kids (do people still say latch key?).  My older children usually have a practice - one of which starts at 400 -- its a pain in the ass.

Sady Jacobs Manning

i live in a rural OK town that has kids from as far as 40 miles coming to it.these kids have to get on the bus at 6:15 am! That is tough on a kid that does get enough sleep. then they don't get off until after 5, have to do homework, supper and baths! Not to mention spend time with their family. It's way too early!

Mommah3 Mommah3

I agree that school starts way too early! My 3 children get on the bus at 7 am (and they arent the first kids on!) for school that starts at 750.  They go to bed at 730.....including my 10 yr old, to get up at 620!  While I agree that school should come before anything, kids need and  want  to spend time with their family and do extracurricular activities like sports or 4-H and by the time those things are done around here, it is way past 730 when they finally get to bed!  750 is way too early for an elementary school to start in my opinion.....but that and $1 will get a cup coffee at McD's!

Sara Reibslager Tripp

Mommah3-The kids in our neighborhood have to get on the bus at 5:45am!  I agree it is way to early. 

1-10 of 16 comments 12 Last