The average San Marin student sleeps for only six hours a night. The national average amount of sleep for high school students is seven hours, according to a 2017 survey by the National Sleep Foundation. The necessary amount of sleep for teenagers is approximately nine hours a night. San Marin adapted their schedule to start later for the 2017-18 school year, but the potential success of this shift is questionable.
The lack of sufficient time to sleep can be accounted for in a variety of ways. Primarily, teenagers struggle with balancing their schoolwork with extracurricular activities and their social lives. By trying to spend time doing all three, there is not enough time to also get the necessary amount of sleep.
In addition, teenagers require a different schedule than younger children or adults. Once puberty begins, the circadian rhythm of teens is shifted two hours later, so if a student were to grow tired around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. they would now become drowsy around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. This shift alone would not cause any detrimental health issues or swings in behavior. However, with high schools starting as soon as or before middle school, teenagers go to bed hours later and wake up at the same time or earlier five days a week.
There are additional health benefits to sleeping the necessary time. In addition to performing better in school, studies by the National Sleep Foundation have shown that students who lack sleep are more reckless drivers, more susceptible to depression and more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
Before the start of the 2017-18 school year, the Novato Unified School District modified the San Marin bell schedule to start at 8:00 a.m. daily instead of having the first bell ring as early as 7:15 a.m.
With this adjustment, students would theoretically be able to sleep for an additional 45 minutes each night, raising the alertness and productivity of students.
“I usually sleep for about four hours a night,” freshman Emily Maniscalco said. “In middle school, I slept about the same as now, but in elementary school I slept a good 9-10 hours.”
She accounted for this shift with the added stress from school, work and friends as she grew older.
“I went through personal issues and the unrest it caused prevented me from sleeping well or at all. I think the same happens to a lot of people,” Maniscalco said.
In September of 2017, the State Assembly voted on a bill that would require all California middle and high schools to start at 8:30 a.m. It did not pass, receiving only 26 of the necessary 41 votes. However, the discussion of having a mandatory later start time continues.