One main topic of discussion regarding Zero Period PE is the need for sleep. Surveys show that Palo Alto students sleep an average of six and a half hours — well below the needed eight to ten hours a night, according to the Sleep Foundation. While Zero Period PE is not responsible for a large percentage of these numbers, running the mile at 7:15 a.m. is sure to drain already sleep-deprived youth and can lead to even greater health risks. According to the American Psychological Association, research suggests that sleep deprivation puts adolescents at risk for cognitive and emotional difficulties, poor school performance, accidents and psychopathology.
Sleep deprivation can lead to other negative side effects. It can cause aggressive behavior and contribute to illnesses, according to the Sleep Foundation. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the risk of depression significantly increased among teens who sleep less than eight hours a night. While one may state that students enrolled in Zero Period PE try to sleep earlier in compensation, no surveys or studies regarding this exist and hordes of Paly students continue to lament their lack of sleep.
While self-identified “morning people” may benefit from Zero Period PE, many sophomores take the class to enroll in as many as eight other academic classes during the school day. Although freshmen are prohibited from joining more than seven classes, no limit exists for sophomores and upperclassmen.
“It forces people who want to take many classes into taking Zero Period [PE] because it [taking many classes] is not an option otherwise,” sophomore Julia Lauer said.
Furthermore, morning people can still wake up early to complete school assignments, and thus do not need to take an early class to be productive.
According to sophomore Jessica Wu, who signed up for nine classes in first semester, Zero Period PE contributed to an already high stress load.
“It was a super long day,” she said. “I’d arrive [at school] at seven and go home at five with no break. Then I would have extracurriculars, and that would give me no time to actually get work done until nine.”
Although Zero Period PE may cause less stress than early academic classes, it continues to strain students’ stress and sleep levels. However, supporters maintain that because Zero Period PE is an optional class, it should always be available to those who wish to take it. In order to cooperate with students willing to wake in the early morning in exchange for an afternoon prep, an ideal solution is to limit Zero Period students to a total of seven classes or make students who wish to take more that seven classes sign a waiver. In addition, advisers and counselors should warn against utilizing Zero Period PE as a tool for taking extra classes.