We all know that it is impossible for us to survive a long time without food. Just like our bodies, our brains also have a source of food: sleep. Without sleep, our brains will not function properly. This can be harmful, or even deadly to our bodies and to our abilities to carry out our tasks, whether it be at home or at school.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 85% of teens aren’t able to get even the minimum 8 hours of sleep recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This not only compromises their abilities to focus in school, but also affects their bodies and makes them more prone to diseases. Most obviously, sleep deprivation causes lower spans of attention and impaired memory, hindering students’ academic progress and lowering their grades. However more alarmingly, the lack of sleep is very likely to lead to mood swings and emotional problems, increasing the chances of mental illnesses. Even worse, sleep deprivation is a very big risk factor for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
No matter how much parents want to help their child get the amount of sleep they need, it isn’t that simple: during and after puberty, teens are rewired as night owls, easily staying up until midnight and then sleeping in. Also, the Start School Later organization states that over 10% of U.S. high schools start before 7:30 a.m., 43% before 8 a.m., under 15% after 8:30 a.m., and over 20% of U.S. middle schools at 7:45 a.m. or earlier doesn’t help students get the crucial hours of sleep their bodies need, especially during the teen years. State senator Anthony Portantino said, “It’s the biological equivalent of waking you or me (adults) up at 3:30 a.m. Imagine how you would feel if, 187 days a year, you had to get up at 3:30 a.m. You’d be miserable, you’d be depressed – you’d act like a teenager.”
Thus, some have argued that delaying school by just 30 minutes would improve educational outcomes, and it has also been found that schools delaying their starting time helped the attendance of the students rise. Students are the future of the world, and need all the help they can get, including the additional 30 minutes of sleep they would get if schools were to start just a little later. If the little delay of schools’ starting times ends up helping students stay awake during classes and preventing illnesses, I believe that we should be granted that.
Although Senate Bill 328, which would have had public and charter schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later by January 1, 2021, has been vetoed by Governor Brown, it doesn’t mean that the hope of letting teens sleep in is gone forever. I believe that in time, this matter will come up again and more people will see how beneficial this change would be. Not only would students benefit from it, but also the future of our world, which is in the hands of upcoming generations, would become brighter.
Sabrina Mo, Grade 8
Portola Middle School