Eye of the Editors: Start School Later

START SCHOOL LATER: School districts across the country have shifted the start times of high schools to address the growing issue of sleep deprivation among teens.

There is no question that sleep deprivation among teens has a strong presence in a high-achieving community like Diamond Bar High School. With the average student getting just over six hours of sleep, one would expect helping students get the sleep they need to be one of the administration’s top priorities. In schools in 43 states, starting classes later has proven to be extremely effective in helping students get the sleep they need. Unfortunately, this remains a change that Diamond Bar has yet to see.

Although changing school schedules has its complications, an overwhelming body of evidence has prompted schools into taking action. To sum it up, science says teenagers were not meant for early wakeup times. During adolescence, a delayed release of melatonin makes it difficult for teenagers to fall asleep before 11 p.m. A bedtime of no earlier than an hour before midnight coupled with a wakeup time before 8 a.m. makes it impossible for students to get the recommended nine hours of sleep. This dilemma is only exacerbated by heavy workloads, a problem all too familiar to a majority of Diamond Bar students, which not only causes students to sleep later, but also spurs many to wake up earlier in order to complete their unfinished work. With severe restraints on sleep from both ends of the spectrum for most, Diamond Bar High School may as well be the epicenter of sleep deprivation.

A common—and reasonable—concern among parents and students lies with the idea that if schools were to start later, they would also end later, further cutting time that would normally be used for schoolwork and extracurricular activities. However, studies indicate that later waking hours have not only improved students’ physical and mental health, but also have also attributed to students getting more sleep overall. In a school surveyed by Boston University with a 45 minute delay to 8:15 a.m., students received 33 additional minutes of sleep per night. In a study in Israel, an hour delay allowed students to get an additional 55 minutes, and in Norway, an hour delay translated to 66 minutes. Across the board, schools have noted an increase in standardized test scores, and coaches reported improved athletic performances by their student athletes.

At a time when students who get a sufficient amount of sleep are part of a small minority, Diamond Bar’s administration needs to prioritize the well-being of its students and do whatever it can to fix this pervasive issue. It would be negligent to do nothing in spite of what is known, especially when countless benefits are just around the corner.