It is 5:55 am, and my alarm honks at me annoyingly. I know I have two snoozes so I use them, but I finally jolt awake at 6:45. Oh, no, I'm already late. I was supposed to be leaving now!! I swing quickly out of bed and run into the bathroom, noticing suddenly how dark the house is.
Oh yeah. It's 6:45 in the morning.
Usually, my house would also be bustling, but my dad has already left to take my brother to middle school early for his band rehearsal, and my stepmom and stepbrother are about to get up with the same panicked feeling of tardiness that I experienced. I try to make myself hurry, but it is hard. I went to a club meeting afterschool, then I went to work and finally collapsed into bed to do some homework around 9:30. I think I finally nodded off around 1am - my third consecutive night of less than six hours of sleep.
Truth be told, for an 18-year-old female, I should be getting at LEAST 8h per night. By the end of the week, when I finally escape school Friday afternoon, I have a sleep deficit of close to 15 hours. At 30 hours, my immune system will weaken and I will get sick or begin to experience other mental or physical symptoms of unhealthiness.
"I'll sleep earlier tonight," I promise myself every day. Yet I usually cannot sleep earlier at night anyway, and only regret the late-night productivity (...or social media perusing) of the night before when I have to wake up the next morning. The truth is, if our entire days just began 2-3 hours later, everything would be much better.
To address the glaring point, people could sleep in. Less drowsy people are safer and more productive, are able to focus better and can more easily access their creativity since their brains are firing more quickly. They will perform better and will generally be happier, since a lack of sleep has been found to exaggerate and worsen symptoms of mental disorders like depression, anxiety and several mood disorders.
On the back end of the day, you have more safety on the road. Staying awake for 18+ hours impairs someone as if they had a BAC of .08, a legally drunk level for an adult (let alone a teenager who already lacks experience on the road); at 24 hours, it is like .1. In fact, 1/3 of people say they have actually fallen asleep behind the wheel, a driving problem that is worse than drunk driving because at least drunk drivers are conscious enough to swerve from an obstacle; an unconscious snoring driving will slam into it at 60 mph.
But most importantly, and logically, there is no reason to begin so early. Most clubs and before-school activities begin around 7:45 or 7:30, which is well earlier than the CDC's recommended start time and requires students to leave their houses even earlier to avoid traffic delays. Before-school athletic practices begin around 6 or 6:30. And it is not as if these earlier starts do anything to alleviate work on the back end - athletics and play rehearsals often go until 8 or 9, clubs stay at least until 4:30 or 5, and any students with an after-school job will probably not get home until 9 or 10. This leaves them forced to stay up late doing homework before dragging themselves out of bed blearily at 6:30 again the next morning.
With a later start, kids can either make up some of this lost sleep in the morning or choose to sleep earlier at night to rise in the morning and finish homework before school. As it is, this "burn the candle at both ends" mentality is dangerous - many teens are addicted to caffeine or other stimulants to keep themselves awake, stress disorders are at an all-time high with millennials (with whom the current student generation can be lumped in) leading, and many people believe they have lost free time to pursue personal interests.
Unless the goal is to work students to death, there is no reason for schools to begin so early. Kids' health is important, especially with relation to sleep as students are growing up. Why are elementary schools the earliest starters at 7:50, when these kids need the sleep to grow and develop? By moving the start times about an hour later, all of these problems would be fixed - and we would have a happier, healthier student population.
And if you think I'm just spitting numbers, I'll throw myself under the bus a bit; today, November 2nd, is the day after a Georgia Virtual School deadline as well as the Early Application deadline for most American colleges. I think I fell asleep around 3 last night, and this morning, I accidentally parked at Northview High School and prepared to go in for the day. I have never attended a day at Northview; but my brain was not fully engaged, I was zoned out, and I then continued to operate a 2-ton vehicle to get to my real school before my club meeting at 8.