Many students will tell you that they are seriously sleep-deprived and, as a result, are often late to school. The 7:05 a.m. start time for zero period at CVHS is especially cruel to teenagers, who are not wired for rising with the sun. I average four to six hours of sleep myself, and many of my friends tell me they get about the same. No one I know comes close to getting the nine hours of sleep recommended by doctors.
At CVHS, first period also starts early, at 8:08 a.m. This is about average for California’s high schools according to State Senator Anthony Portantino, author of unsuccessful legislation that would have required California public schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The bill failed due to opposition from a number of groups, including the California School Boards Association. This position prioritized the convenience of adults over the basic needs of students.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes in a letter of support for the bill, SB 328, that, “due to hormonal changes, most teenagers naturally fall asleep later than younger children and older adults, and rise later as well — unless sleep is interrupted by a 6 a.m. alarm, in which case they go to school poorly rested.”
The AAP also notes that sleep deprivation in teens can lead to “driving drowsy,” which is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
Pediatricians point out that teens lacking sufficient sleep are also more prone to suffer from: “depression, weight gain, irritability, inattentiveness, academic difficulties, and more.”
The benefits of a good night’s rest, according to Portantino, include: “increased attendance rates, grade point averages, state assessment scores, college admission test scores, student attention, and student and family interaction.”
Many will argue that starting school later is pointless because school will end later and students will have to stay up longer doing homework as a result. However, this seems more humane to teenagers, as we are prone to sleeping and waking up later.
On top of the sadistically early schedule, the amount of homework assigned to students every night is obscene. If teachers could assign even slightly less homework, students could go to sleep at a more reasonable time.
Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the school board need to unite and come up with a schedule that is workable for all, but that also respects the needs of high school students for a good night’s sleep adjusted to their later sleep cycle. Just because the state legislation failed to advance this year doesn’t mean that CVHS should stick to the status quo. Change can be hard, but this is a change students need to survive and thrive.