Late Starts Mark the Beginning of a Well-Rested Tomorrow

Anna Ho, Staff Writer

By now, almost every SJHHS student has voiced their complaints about Monday late start traffic. After all, who wants to start their week in lines that snake down Ortega, up Antonio, and across La Pata?

The traffic has caused many to take issue with the school’s implementation of late start Mondays this school year. But, while traffic may be irritating and tiresome, the benefits of starting school later, even for just one day a week, will be felt by students for much longer than the irritation of half an hour spent waiting to get into the school parking lot.

Earlier school starts make it impossible for teens to both follow their body’s natural sleep schedule and get a healthy amount of sleep.

Administration designed this new schedule with purposeful intent. Starting next summer, the state of California will mandate that all high schools start no earlier than 8:30 am. This switch to late start Mondays is preparation for what is to come  in the next school year.

Even this year, with just one day beginning at 8:30, students will already start to feel the benefits of additional sleep.

Almost all scientists are in agreement that teenagers need 8-10 hours of rest each night. Despite this, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that only about 3 in 10 high school students will reach the benchmark of 8 hours of rest a night. Many medical experts blame schools’ early start times for this phenomenon.

Early school start times, especially for students with zero periods, force students to go to bed at 9 or 10 pm to attain 8 hours of sleep, which ultimately disrupts their circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm marks the times at which our bodies release melatonin. A “phase delay” in adolescents’ circadian rhythm means that we are biologically coded to naturally fall asleep only after 11 pm. Earlier school starts make it impossible for teens to both follow their body’s natural sleep schedule and get a healthy amount of sleep. Often, the homework load and time commitment of extracurriculars and AP classes make it very difficult for students to be able to even get to bed at adequate times, regardless of their biological clocks. Due to all these factors, early school schedules are leading to the prevalence of sleep deprivation among our students.

Sleep deprivation has proven to be causing serious problems for the students it affects. According to the CDC, teens who do not get the recommended amount of sleep are more likely to not get the required amount of exercise, rely on drugs like caffeine and alcohol, develop depression, receive worse grades, and get into car accidents. Later school times have been proven to increase student sleep and remedy the aforementioned issues.

Some may argue that the added sleep of just one school day with a later start time will not have a significant enough impact on student health to be worth Monday morning traffic. In reality, starting the week off well rested has a big impact on the quality of a student’s week, especially for those who take zero periods. To be awake and alert in the first 4-6 Monday classes sets a strong precedent for the rest of the week, and many students have already been seeing increases in their own work habits and overall happiness.

As for traffic, it is easy for us to remedy congestion induced problems- form carpools, walk the trail to school, ride your e-bike. Changing student lifestyles and biological sleep habits to conform to ridiculously early start times just to avoid the 40 minute Monday traffic lines in favor of the 20 minute lines we were used to? Much more difficult.