School start time

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This text is part of: "Problem of Schooling" by Piotr Wozniak (2017-2024)

Human rights

Early school hours are a violation of human rights

Most of school starting times around the world are too early for children to get enough sleep for optimum brain development. As a result, a large proportion of children are forcefully dragged from bed. Others believe they wake up naturally without ever being aware that their sleep needs are much greater and are only suppressed with the sense of duty and self-discipline.

Sleep experts have been appealing to school authorities for decades for later start times or more flexibility in allowing children to come late for class. To no avail. The industrial power of the school system is deaf to health concerns. The abolition of compulsory schooling and education freedom would instantly resolve the problem for those children who are free from authoritarian parenting.

School vs. the brain

The most appalling aspect of the early school time is that it goes against the most valuable educational asset in the world: the learn drive. On one hand, I spare no effort to protect and enhance natural curiosity in children and adults, on the other, the same force in combination with artificial lighting and digital technologies, leads to an epidemic of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome and insomnia. Without a serious curb on the blessings of digital technology, we are bound to push the natural wake time to later hours. I am a "victim" too. I go to sleep indecently late. However, for decades I have been free from the deadly effect of the alarm clock, and wish to share the nirvanic impact of this simple lifestyle change with everyone. When I say kill the alarm clock, I find sympathy with a great deal of creative population who find it natural to pursue their creative hobbies late into the night. However, children are not free to go wild with their creative dreams. They need to suppress their passions and the excitement with captivating knowledge to make sure they can get up for school without being brain dead.

Destroying a teen

Not so long ago, I had a great pleasure to get to know a talented 15-year-old user of SuperMemo who complained of never being truly rested during the school year. Despite all my best coaching, we did not seem to make much progress in trying to establish a healthy sleep rhythm with natural waking at or before 8 am (the required school time). The effort is documented in this tragic blog, which shows great determination, great discipline, and wholehearted readiness to submit to necessary lifestyle changes. There is the entire arsenal needed to combat phase shifts: early sunlight, early exercise, protected evening zone, lights out regimen, and more. The only missing ingredients are artificial interventions such as melatonin, amber glasses, or bright light therapy, i.e. heavy weaponry at some extra cost. Instead of solving the problem, the teenager ran into mood problems that may have disastrous effect on further education, creative productivity, and brain development. It gives me little pleasure to report that before we attempted the effort, knowing all the symptoms and intellectual ingredients, I expected that the kid is more likely to get sick than to get adapted. Thankfully, his exposure to potential covid infection was limited due to covid lockdown. On a bad day, his immunity might be a fraction of its best. The battle continues on the day I write these words (Jan 25, 2021), however, I would prefer the kid to go to school with a sleep expert evaluation and insist that waking up at 8 am quarrels with his neurophysiology


As a stubborn teen, I told my teachers, "you cannot build a productive society with sleepy people". I refused to obey school hours. In the 1970s, it was tolerated. Today, school systems claim to be student friendly. In reality, they are getting more and more oppressive. The oppression often comes with a smile and a friendly hug: "We are doing it for your own good", while there are threats aplenty: "If you fail that exam ...", "If you do not show up again ...". This is not just kid gossip, I heard an actual secret recording where teachers claim to sweat for a child and then move on to threats of jailtime for his parents. Love mixed with prison in the same 10 minute conversation!

On a daily basis I meet and talk to sleepy teenagers. When I speak of the need for a change, they agree but show no zeal to fight, e.g. for their right to be homeschooled. They have been drained of willpower and love of life.

If you are one of those teens, seek friendly psychiatric consultation, DSPS diagnosis, and doctor's excuse for attending early class. If you cannot bank on the system, bank on yourself. If schools started getting empty in the morning, political forces that keep children caged would need to relent.

If you continue going sleepy to school despite all the best expert advice, STOP! Fight for your right to protect your brain!

Criminal demands

Waking up children for any reason is bad for their brain. For a successful life in any society, ancient or modern, healthy brain counts for far more than education. Waking them up, robs the kids of their future.

Waking up children is criminal

At the very least, school start time should be moved to later hours. Some school systems introduce minor changes (see: Finnish paradox). The benefits are instantly measurable. "Fewer kids sleeping in class" is a ridiculously unambitious benchmark. "Fewer traffic accidents" is obvious. Changing school start from 7 am to 8 am is just a drop in a bucket. For many teens, even school at 12:00 might turn out to be a struggle (if you are one, see Curing DSPS and insomnia). Ultimately, changing school hours is a quarter-measure that is supposed to alleviate a bigger problem of compulsory schooling. Compulsory schooling must end!

School and society

By my estimate, 80-90% of the joy of childhood is stolen by the school system. As for the lost potential for the future of children, it is hard to estimate. High creativity today delivers a compound interest that builds over years for individuals. Societies are even more complex and collectively compounds the costs even further. This is an astronomical global tragedy. We all pay the cost.

Further reading

See also

For more texts on memory, learning, sleep, creativity, and problem solving, see Super Memory Guru