Amber de Saint-Exupéry
While COVID-19 has upturned school protocols across the world, ASL’s guidelines and regulations have made it possible for students to return to campus.
The administration issued an official reopening plan Aug. 10 including physical, operational and logistical changes designed to ensure the safest possible environment for students and faculty members.
One particular measure could have health benefits beyond mitigating the current COVID-19 crisis.
In the interest of minimizing time spent on campus without shortening classes, the administration decided to push back first block to 8:45 a.m., allowing students to sleep-in for an extra 40 minutes if they choose not to come in early.
By implementing COVID-19 precautions, the school has inadvertently eased a widespread chronic health problem amongst teens: sleep deprivation.
During distance learning, the flexibility to sleep-in gave me the opportunity to get at least eight hours of sleep. Fully rested, I found myself focusing better, working more productively and generally feeling more positive.
Since returning to campus in September and adapting to the new schedule, my normally sleep-deprived peers seem more physically and emotionally rested.
This later start time, regardless of COVID-19, should be permanent, as having the ability to get more sleep will benefit students’ mental and emotional health.
According to the National Library of Medicine, on average, most adolescents get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night during weekdays – well under the eight to 10 hours needed for optimal health and performance.
Unlike children and adults, the biological clock of adolescents naturally causes teenagers to fall asleep later each night and wake up later each morning.
According to University of Washington Professor Horacio de la Iglesia in an interview with UW News, “To ask a teen to be up and alert at 7:30 a.m. is like asking an adult to be active and alert at 5:30 a.m.”
This is why myself and many high school students struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
Furthermore, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, due to compromised sleep quality, teenagers with earlier school starting times face a higher risk of experiencing depression or anxiety.
This study not only reinforces the theorized link between sleep and adolescent mental health, but proves that later starting times boost students’ alertness, mood and overall health; these positive health benefits show the importance of permanently pushing back the first block by 40 minutes.
However, students can still choose to make use of conference time at the beginning of the day by having an extra opportunity to meet with teachers prior to first block tests or other assessments. Yet, those who do not wish to do so can sleep in.
Ultimately, the new schedule benefits high school students by allowing for increased sleep and flexibility. The next step the High School should take towards improving student’s mental health should be permanently pushing back class starting time.