Later starts address teen sleep concerns


Infographic of late starts in San Francisco schools, made by Lily Daniel.

Lily Daniel, Staff Writer

Teenagers need sleep. With copious technology and vast amounts of work, many teenagers are barely able to make it through their long days without being well rested. According to a recent survey, almost 60 percent of Urban students said they needed 8-10 hours of sleep a night to function well the next day. However, on average, students were going to bed between 10 and 11 and waking up between 6-7. 79.3 percent of respondents indicated the want for more sleep and a late start at Urban.  How can Urban allow for more rested students?

As countless studies are being released focused on the over-stimulation of teenage brains, little is being done to respond to this epidemic. Not only do teenagers get little sleep, but America rounds out to be one of the lowest countries in terms of how long its citizens sleep per night. According to pediatrician and New York Times writer Aaron E. Carroll, Americans average 6.5 hours of sleep per night; that’s 3.5 hours less than what teens should be getting. According to a recent New York Times article, the epidemic of sleep deprivation in the United States is so drastic that, “By some estimates, Americans sleep two to three hours fewer today than they did before the Industrial Revolution.” Many doctors have recommended that teens get an average of 8-10 hours of sleep a night, though a recent study found that only 15 percent of teens were sleeping more than eight and a half hours a night.

In early 2014, the American Association of Pediatrics released a statement recommending pushing school start times to 8:30 or later. While the American Association of Pediatrics might not have total authority, many Bay Area high schools have recently taken initiative in response to new sleep studies. San Francisco schools like University High School, Sacred Heart, Lick-Wilmerding and Lowell High School have pushed their start times back on either certain days of the week, or everyday.

2016 marks the 50th year of Urban, but fifty years later, Urban still maintains its 8:10 start time.

For many Urban teachers and administrators, it really comes down to “how we can adjust the schedule and still meet classroom needs, co-curricular needs and sports needs,” said Charlotte Worsley, Assistant Dean of Student Life. According to a recent interview with head of school Mark Salkind, Urban students, administrators and teachers alike are generally in agreement that even a slightly later start time would benefit everyone, allowing students to be more awake and ready to learn.

So what would it take for Urban to start at 8:30 or even 9:00? Shorter lunches? Shorter E periods? No long breaks? Less time to carve rock sculptures or study the limits of infinity?

Urban’s plans for a new schedule “got serious last year,” says senior and Curriculum Committee member Rex Hirschhorn (‘17). “Teachers at Urban notice that students come into class exhausted in the mornings and have read and agreed with studies about the importance of teenage sleep,” further motivating them to agree to the later start. The scheduling committee has struggled to find the right balance “because if you make the start time too late then kids will just start staying up later,” said Hirschhorn.

For now Urban still starts at 8:10, but our future seems well-rested!

Sweet dreams, Blues!