Do Schools Start Too Early?


Brian Sinks

      With West Carrollton Schools adjusting their start times to accommodate our new buildings, most high schoolers are enjoying their extra bit of sleep. West Carrollton has a fairly reasonable schedule, but many schools have start times that force elementary schoolers to be waking up as early as 5:30 in the morning. These start times may just look like an inconvenience, but how far does this problem reach?

      Something as simple as starting school early has been proven to lead to serious and seemingly unrelated health issues such as depression, addictions to tobacco and alcohol, eating disorders, and many more (1). Having little sleep also creates a danger for upperclassmen or teachers who drive to school, as having less than the recommended amount of sleep slows your reaction time, causes bad decision making, and increases your chance to fall asleep behind the wheel. Aproxemently 4% of adults reported falling asleep driving in the last month, a majority of which had gotten less than 6 hours of sleep per day (2). That’s an astounding number considering how many people are driving around daily, and that one person becomes a danger for themself as well as everyone else on the road.

      These issues can impact students’ school life, making it harder to learn and keep up with classes. It’s important to understand these effects so we can figure out what should be done to minimize the effects of early school schedules. 

How do the teachers feel?

      To get a look at how teachers view school start times, I interviewed Connie. She’s a 3rd-grade teacher in her second year of teaching*, after years of student teaching around the area while attending Wright State University. 

      Her school starts at 6:30 am and she has to wake up at 5 am every morning. This, combined with lesson planning and grading in the evening, makes it nearly impossible for her to get a full 8 hours of sleep daily.

      “Aside from the occasional kid falling asleep in class, my students usually don’t seem too tired. However, when someone’s late to class, it normally seems like it’s the parent’s fault for not waking up early enough to drive to school”, Connie said when asked about how start times seem to affect her students. 

      As much as Connie, students, and likely the student’s parents dislike waking up so early for elementary school, she prefers getting out at 2:10 pm and having the rest of the day to herself.

What does science think?

       As mentioned earlier, waking up early can have side effects outside of just being tired. The risks of depression, diabetes, and other mental and physical problems can be invisible at first but slowly build up over time. 

       According to the Cleveland Clinic, most students should have around 10 hours of sleep a day (3). This is 3 hours off of the 7 hours most teenagers get daily, which is partly caused by high schools starting early (4). Schools that start later have already seen improvements in tardiness, fewer car accidents, better overall mental health, and many more students meeting the 9-10 hour recommendation (5).


       Starting school later can have its advantages and disadvantages. It’s been shown to improve students’ health, decrease car accidents, and increase school attendance. With that, school gets pushed further into the day, so there’s less time for after school activities. 

       In my experience, that extra free time is negated by the lingering exhaustion of waking up so early. With school times pushed up, while there’s technically less free time, you’ve got more energy to do things and you’re free to stay up until later times without worrying as much about losing sleep. If school districts want to help everyone out, they should start later in the day. 

1: CDC – Schools Start Too Early | May 29, 2022
2: CDC – Drowsy Driving | March 7, 2022
3: Cleveland Clinic – Waking up too early? | May 22, 2019
4: Nationwide Children’s – Sleep in Adolescents | Adapted from 2003
5: AAP, CDC, NSF, UM – Benefits of Later School Start Times| Aug. 26, 2022
 Interview from Connie [REDACTED] at [REDACTED] Elementary* 
*asked for school to remain anonymous for legal reasons