A rude awakening: Why we should be grateful for our 9AM lectures

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It’s hard to find something so universally hated as the 9AM class. Waking up when it’s dark outside every week for the majority of the teaching year. Spending at least 35 minutes in traffic on the way from Leamington. Arriving to your seat half-asleep and still wondering why you even came – we’ve all been there.

Adding newfound legitimacy to our grumbles, researchers at The Open University have found that 9AMs might not be the best when it comes to academic performance. For the average undergraduate student, The OU has found that setting a new starting time at ‘between 11AM and 1PM’ would be optimal.

This is because during adolescence and early adulthood, ‘wake and sleep times are shifted two to three hours later in the day,’ which they have found to be in conflict the education start times that seem ‘more appropriate to young children and older adults.’The misalignment between the sleep timing shift for adolescents and typical hours of an educational institution causes significant sleep loss which as well as reducing academic performance, ‘elevates risks of obesity, depression and drug abuse.’

Arriving to your seat half-asleep and still wondering why you even came – we’ve all been there

While the Open University’s research shows that standard morning lecture times don’t necessarily benefit us, academics from the University of Surrey and Harvard Medical School disagree. They argue that by delaying start times, most teenagers’ internal clock would simply drift later, and so in only a few weeks it would be equally as hard to get out of bed for an 11AM as it is currently for a 9AM. As much as I dislike leaving bed for my 9AM, I have to say I agree.

For the majority of us, university is the first time we’ve truly been in control of managing ourselves. We choose when we eat, how we spend our free time, and most importantly when we go to sleep and wake up. While 9 and 10am lectures may sometimes feel like an oppressive sentence, they provide structure to our day.

In only a few weeks it would be equally as hard to get out of bed for an 11AM as it is currently for a 9AM

Last year, despite being a Fresher, I was fortunate to have quite a lot of freedom with my timetable. In fact, I had to organise it all myself. I did consider giving myself three days off, as it was possible, but I made the decision to make sure I had a class every day at 10AM. Living on campus certainly made it easier, but I am grateful for those morning classes as they forced me to set my alarm for a specific time, and made me rethink when I was heading to bed too. Realistically, later classes mean you’re just losing time during the day.

Furthermore, despite a student’s desire to start their lectures later, this simply isn’t possible outside of the bubble that university creates. The majority of jobs start at 9, or earlier in some cases. This includes the jobs of the very people sharing the 9AMs with us – the lecturers. Pushing pack lecture times means that their personal life suffers. A seminar tutor that taught me in Term One (a 10AM seminar) used to commute from Cambridge every weekend, leaving behind two young sons. Finishing later on a Friday for example could have knock on effects for her returning home at the end of the week.

I am grateful for those morning classes as they forced me to set my alarm for a specific time

In addition, pushing back lectures would not leave us in good stead for our future careers, where it’s almost guaranteed that a company’s expectation is not going to change simply because we’ve got used to sleeping in. If there is anything that we need to change, it’s our own sleeping habits. Turning off electronic devices and going to bed to try and ensure we feel rested enough to tackle the 9AM seems like the only way to go. For me, moving education start times is a move that seems out of touch with the reality of life.

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