By NIMA MOVAHEDI
Two words not usually associated together: sleep and high school. Too common in American high schools, sleep deprivation has become a rising issue.
Medically, it has been recommended that teens receive between 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night to help manage stress and emotions, develop their brain and body, and stay alert during the day (Washington Post). Teenagers that lack sufficient sleep have been proven to be negatively impacted mentally, with an increase in depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts.
Despite this research, only 15% of students get 8 ½ hours of sleep, leaving the vast majority of high school students sleep-deprived (Well+Good).
One possible solution that is gaining traction is to delay the school start time.
The average national start time is 8:00 am, while California has a slightly later average of 8:07 am. In the past, schools in the United States started school at around 9:00 am.
However, during the 1970’s and 1980’s, start times were often made earlier to save money on bus cycles in coordination with nearby schools (National Sleep Foundation).
As a result of the health risks resulting from sleep deprivation, many students are in favor of the school start time being 8:30 am.
“Half an hour of extra sleep really helps,” junior Roshan Patel said. “Every Thursday is really nice because I can sleep in.”
For many like Patel, this 30-minute delayed school start has a significant impact on attentiveness in class. Genetic and brain activity studies have shown that an extra thirty minutes can reduce fatigue, tension, and daytime sleepiness by more than one-third (Why Change).
Some other students concur, welcoming a later school start time.
“A later start time would allow me to stay up later and do homework, while not feeling bad about going to sleep at a better time,” adds junior Jonah O’Brien. “I’m a guy that likes doing stuff at night and have a hard time waking up in the morning.”
Similar to most sophomores and juniors taking advanced classes, O’Brien struggles to balance time between adequate studying and sleep. Giving all students more time in the morning will allow them to both gain 8 hours of sleep and finish their coursework on time.
However, some students believe that a later start time is not needed.
“Thirty minutes is going to offset everything and not make any big changes… it’s not such a big change that people are going to use that time to eat, not to sleep” says senior Anshay Saboo.
Similar to Saboo, schools are reluctant to start later, thinking that students will not utilize this extra time to sleep in. While some students might not optimize this time for sleep and use it for free time or studying, it’s beneficial to provide this for others that will take advantage of the time and get 8 hours of sleep.
In addition to concerns like Saboo’s, others worry about the effects of a later dismissal.
“Extracurricular and after school activities would make [students] come back home at 5:30 or later,” comments junior Arne Noori.
Many students take sports and other extracurriculars that have practice after school. A significant concern is that those activities may leave less time to study and do homework. However, with extra sleep, these students will be more alert and energetic for the school day, causing a boost in overall performance.
While many continue to petition for change on the local level, many states have begun to take the issue to their state governments. For example, in 2018, California’s then-Governor Jerry Brown rejected legislation regarding later school start times, saying schools should set their own start times.
However, upon entering office, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into effect a new law that would require all public middle schools to start at 8:00 am and public high schools at 8:30 am by July 1, 2022 (CNN).
Newson additionally looked to a 2017 case study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), finding that 3 out of 4 high school students get less than 8 hours of sleep.
While California will have a later state school start time, the need for a national referendum is nevertheless essential to teenagers’ biological and mental well-being.