The School Day: Is It Too Long?

Waking up before the sun rises and going to bed long after the sun has set has become the norm for many high school students. Alarms go blaring off, disrupting the sleep cycle as the moon is still gleaming in the sky. Students press snooze a few times to get a few extra minutes of sleep; however, they continue to feel exhausted once it is time to drag themselves out of bed. Then, it is time for the next triumph: going to school for more than seven hours. Some pack their schedules, only having a lunch or no off period at all, going through ten periods straight. Many grab an energy drink or coffee in order to stay awake in class. Once the school day has concluded, many attempt to split their time between sports, clubs, volunteering, homework, and studying. Once students arrive home from their after-school activities, mountains of homework and studying await. Struggling to stay awake to complete their tasks, students sometimes once again indulge in caffeine to disrupt the normal circadian rhythm. Then, once it is time to go to bed, the moon has returned to its gleaming state and the exhausted body quickly drifts into sleep. The next day, the whole cycle repeats.

With a ten-period school day, the day begins at 7:30 AM and concludes at 2:55 PM. This forces students to wake up between 6:00 and 6:30 AM to make it to first period on time. Then, once the school day has ended, many partake in sports or extracurricular activities which begin between 3:00 and 3:30 PM. These activities usually conclude between 4:00 and 5:00 PM, with some sports concluding as late as 8:00 PM, especially with away games. This leads to students returning home to massive amounts of homework and studying. Large quantities of difficult work often have them working late into the night, not allowing them to acquire enough sleep. 

Junior Amelia Doyle agrees that this schedule is not healthy: “Students do not have enough time to explore personal interests while maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and keeping up with school work.” Junior Isabella Martinez has had a similar experience. She shared, “We are in school for too many hours and are so drained at the end of the day. We might as well cut the day shorter so that we can be more attentive in our classes, rather than barely being able to focus at the end of the school day.” While sophomore Cassandra Levinson agrees that a shorter school day would be “highly beneficial for both students and teachers,” she recognizes the reality that this change would be “an entire societal reformation [which is] inherently unlikely to happen soon, [so] we can, as student and teachers, recognize that were are not infallible and that we deserve to rest.” 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s website (, teenagers should be getting between eight and ten hours of sleep; however, only 73% of high school students are meeting this amount.  This amount is nearly impossible to meet due to the crammed schedule of high schoolers. From early morning to late at night, students are constantly occupied, fueled by the productivity culture of American society. Barriers are constantly in place preventing students from getting sleep, with school, extracurriculars, and homework taking up much of the day. The caffeine which many use to counteract the exhaustion inflicts another barrier to quality sleep because it interferes with students’ circadian rhythms. This sleep deprivation has terrible consequences, including increased moodiness, trouble staying awake, drowsiness while driving, increased susceptibility to disease, and depression-like synonyms.

In fact, depression and sleep deprivation have been closely connected. Poor sleep leaves many having difficulty regulating emotions, leading to a higher susceptibility of depression. Depression rates are also increasing among adolescents, according to the World Health Organization’s website ( It is evident that the increasingly busy schedules of adolescents and the subsequent lack of sleep have played a part in this increase.

With so many students experiencing a severe lack of sleep due to the length of the school day, their abundance of extracurriculars, and amount of schoolwork, it is no surprise that many feel exhausted and drained.  The school day schedule is leading to sleep deprivation and the serious long-term health risks it brings with it.