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  • Guneet Bal

How Starting School Later would Benefit Students.

By: Guneet Bal, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief


Many schools across the globe start early in the morning, from around 6:30 to 8:30 A.M. It seems like a beneficial time to wake up, as one would have a full 6 hours for school which doesn’t take up the rest of a student’s free time. However, the truth is that starting school at a later time can allow the student to fully understand concepts more effectively. Being forced to wake up at a time when the person’s body and brain aren’t ready can cause disorientation, grogginess and dissatisfaction in one’s sleep. This is because of the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles.


The REM cycle has 4 stages:

The first stage (N1) is NREM. It is the lightest stage and lasts about 1-5 minutes. It is during this time that it is easiest to wake up (Stages of Sleep).


The second stage (N2) is also NREM. It lasts 10-60 minutes and is more controlled, with a change in temperature and a decreased heart rate (Stages of Sleep). “On the whole, brain activity slows, but there are short bursts of activity that actually help resist being woken up by external stimuli'' (Stages of Sleep). Those short bursts of activity are called sleep spindles (Cleavland Clinic).


Stage three (N3) is a deep sleep. It is harder to wake someone during this time. The brain also switches its activity into a pattern known as delta waves. This stage is also called slow wave sleep. This stage is critical for brain development, muscle restoration and immunity growth (Stages of Sleep). This stage lasts about 20-40 minutes. As the sleep cycles repeat, the NREM stages shorten and the REM stage elongates.


Stage 4: REM. This stage lasts for 10-60 minutes. During this stage is when dreams occur. There is a temporary paralysis on the muscles, except for the eyes and the muscles that control breathing. This stage can take up 25% of an adult’s sleep cycle (Stages of Sleep).


This cycle repeats itself until morning. The issue with the time that school starts is that it is very early in the morning. Most adolescents will wake up a few hours later than their school starting time. This is because of external factors, like the sun. It is bright enough for the brain to pick up during the lightest stage and comprehend that it is morning and time to wake up (Stages of Sleep).


Waking up because of an alarm causes the student to wake up abruptly, instead of on their own time. This is called Sleep Inertia. The alarm causes one to wake up during a deeper stage of sleep instead of on their own time during the lightest stage. “Sleep Inertia often appears as the feeling of incomplete awakening and grogginess that reduces your ability to perform even simple tasks. Part of your body is actually still in a sleep state” (Sleep Inertia). Fixed alarms are troubling due to the fact that one is able to wake up at their deepest stage of sleep. Sleep Inertia can last up to 4 hours, which means 4 hours of grogginess, disorientation and fatigue. The side effects of sleep inertia includes reduced memory, lower productivity and lower performance, lack of concentration, and incapability of making decisions (Sleep Inertia).


Due to the fact that not everyone is in a synchronized sleep cycle, starting school at a later time allows all students to wake up refreshed in their first stage of sleep. Those who wake up earlier have time to get ready, and those who wake up later would wake up and still have enough time to do their morning routine and get to school on time. “Statistically speaking, there is a 45% chance that a fixed-time alarm clock will wake you up from REM sleep, and a 49% chance from non-REM sleep. These are your approximate chances to have sleep inertia. And there is only a 9% chance to be awakened around the optimal moment of sleep stage transition” (Sleep Inertia). A 9% chance of a satisfying waking is 9 out of 100 days, meaning most days students wake up with up to four hours of facing the side effects of sleep inertia.


Especially during adolescence, sleep is a time for the body to release growth hormones, respiration of cells and organs, and even lengthen lifespans. Studies in animals show that an interrupted REM sleep can reduce the length of their lifespan (Cleavland Clinic). Many people think that interrupted sleep still counts as sleep. However, studies show that interrupted sleep has similar effects to practically no sleep, meaning they can also experience hallucinations and neurological problems, if they’re always awoken during their deepest stage of sleep.





References

Cleveland Clinic. (2013). Sleep Basics: REM, Sleep Stages, & More | Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from Cleveland Clinic website: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/12148-sleep-basics


Suni, E. (2021, December 2). Stages of Sleep: What Happens in a Sleep Cycle. Retrieved from Sleep Foundation website: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/stages-of-sleep


Valley Sleep Center. (2012, June 26). 12 Facts About Sleep Inertia. Retrieved from Sleep Study, Sleep Clinic | Valley Sleep Center | Arizona website: https://valleysleepcenter.com/12-facts-about-sleep-inertia/


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