The issue with start times

Schools should begin later for students’ well-being


Infographic by Camille O'Neill

Schools should start later because of health reasons. Teens need more sleep than children and adults.

Camille O'Neill, Sports Director

Administrators need to consider changing the time of day students start school in Millard. Although the current schedule allows for earlier dismissal, the science is clear: starting school later in the day would be more beneficial.

According to studies from the CDC, students in grades 5-8 need more than nine hours of sleep, while students in grades 9-11 need at least eight hours of sleep per night. This is a recommendation that all teenagers should be given the opportunity to follow, even with their busy schedules. Schools should allow teens to be as healthy as possible and be in the best shape to learn. Starting school later will allow high school students to maintain their out-of-school engagements, such as extracurricular activities, jobs and homework while getting the recommended amount of sleep per night. 

It’s not just the amount of sleep that determines academic performance, but the specific times that students sleep plays a role. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), adolescents experience a sleep-wake phase (the time that people routinely go to bed to the time they wake up) delay of up to two hours. This causes teenagers to fall asleep and wake up later than they did in their childhood. High school students are often suited to fall asleep at 11 p.m. and to wake up no later than 8 a.m. School should start later for high school students because of this change in sleep cycle. 

Unfortunately, many students compensate for the lack of sleep on weeknights by sleeping later on weekends. While this can have good short-term effects, in the long run, it can disrupt circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). 

Many benefits come from later start times. Students have greater attendance and better behavior in school overall, according to multiple studies from the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington. These studies also suggest that students’ GPA also increases by an average of .1 if school starts 65 minutes later. Earlier school start times can result in increased physical and mental health problems in adolescents, including obesity, increased depression and drowsy driving crashes, according to AAP.

According to, short sleepers are more likely to gain weight because they tend to engage in late-night snacking after dinner before they go to sleep. This and the lack of sleep causes obesity in teens, which can lead to health problems later in life. Starting school later allows teens to have a greater quality of life and prevent damage to the brain and body.

Millard West starts school later on Mondays, and I think that that is beneficial to many students. Students should get more sleep coming out of the weekend to try to get a person’s sleep cycle back on track. Having the 8:45 a.m. start time allows students to refresh and learn their best when they return to school.

Millard West has already shown that they can start school later one day a week. I believe this should be a permanent change that should be made for all school days. It’s clear that that change would be better for everyone academically, socially, and for long-term health reasons.