The debate is on: should 9-3 school hours change?
In one camp, what’s argued is that this traditional school day is the outdated remains of the industrial revolution’s factory work model. Changing these start and end times would minimise traffic congestion and give more flexibility to parents and carers in the modern workforce.
But at our Year13 Expo this year, science commentator Dr Karl gave us an overlooked reason why high school times should start later than nine: teenagers need more sleep.
And it’s written in their biology.
“When you’re born you need about 12-14 hours of sleep,” he said.
“And as you head towards puberty, it gradually drops down to your boring old parents – about eight hours a night.
“Bang on puberty, two things happen with regard to your pineal gland in your brain. You make more melatonin, so from when you hit puberty to about your early-mid 20s you need 10 hours sleep and secondly, you need it later.”
As a result he says it’s time to un-judge young people who can’t help but stay up later and find it difficult to get out of bed in the early am.
“Do an experiment. Get them to have a lie-down. Tell them they’re free to sleep and that you’ll just be monitoring what’s happening. They’d drop off into restful sleep in minutes, Dr Karl explained.
“On average, high school students go through their whole high school education sleep-deprived,” he said.
“And on a weekend when they sleep in, they’re not being evil, they’re just trying to catch up.”
So no, sleep isn’t for the weak. In addition, sleep is important for young people’s brains to better process thoughts and feelings, be more creative, and develop emotional intelligence.
“When you switch off all the outside world, suddenly these thoughts start appearing in your brain. You think, ‘Where did that come from?’” Dr Karl said.
“If you don’t get that sleep, you don’t have the ‘me time’, suddenly, all you are is a reflection of everybody around you, and you haven’t given yourself time for the inner you to come up.”
So what start time should high schoolers petition for?
“Should be more like 11 o’clock.”
No wonder Dr Karl is so popular with high school students.