Have you ever been so tired you couldn’t think straight? To the point where making sound decisions and staying attentive is nearly impossible? If you’re like most of us, the answer is yes. Now think back to when you were in school: How did that exhaustion affect your ability to perform to your highest ability?
It’s not new information that a solid night of sleep can do wonders for your mind and overall well-being. Yet so often getting more shut-eye is pushed to the side in favor of burning the midnight oil (and boasting how little sleep you got because of how much work needed to get done).
In an effort to help young people get more sleep, California lawmakers voted to ban both middle and high schools from starting classes before 8:30 a.m. On Aug. 31, bill SB328 passed the state assembly and now waits for Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. Once it is signed into law, California schools will have until July 1, 2021, to make changes to their class schedules and transportation.
However, the earlier hours will not apply to rural schools, where a big concern was the interference with farming schedules.
Sleep Is Crucial
Not getting enough sleep can have serious impacts on tweens and teens. Harvard Medical School studies have shown that a lack of sound sleep could lead to obesity, depression, as well as “behavioral and learning problems that persist for years and affect a child’s life forever,” Dr. Claire McCarthy wrote in Harvard Health Publishing. “Teens who don’t get enough sleep are at higher risk for depression and learning problems, and are more likely to get into car accidents and other accidents.”
Yet, so many kids are sitting in a classroom before most adults are even at work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 80 percent of California middle and high school students start classes before 8:30 a.m. That’s a majority of students who could potentially get higher grades and perform better in school with a little extra sleep.
Experts agree that a little more snoozing can go a long way to recharge our batteries.
“When [kids] don’t get the sleep they need, it can cause poor academic performance, drowsy driving, depression, loneliness, social isolation, addictive behaviors and weight gain, obesity and hypertension,” Dr. Carol Ash, a sleep expert with RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey, told “CBS This Morning.” “So it has a significant health and mental impact on your children.”
Those in support of the California bill believe later start times could result in increased graduation rates. Some students are absent from school because of lack of sleep, and the absenteeism adds up, affecting their schoolwork.
“This is the single most cost-effective thing we can do to improve high school graduation rates,” Assemblyman Jay Obernolte said, according to AP News.
Many have taken to Twitter to express their support for the bill, including a music teacher named Pin Chen:
@JerryBrownGov Please sign this bill. 8:30am is still early, but it's a step in the right direction. This is a public health issue. Protect our teens and our communities. I know ALL of my students will be happier and healthier. #sb328 https://t.co/AdVTFZUU9u
— Pin Chen (@pinchenmusic) September 2, 2018
However, the major debate surrounds whether start times should be the decision of teachers and local school boards, rather than the state. Assemblywoman Marie Waldron contested the bill, arguing that later start times could get in the way of extracurricular activities and commutes.
“Science and studies are one thing, but the reality is another, especially when it comes to implementation,” Waldron told The San Diego Tribune in 2017.
Twitter user @PaulRaheb made an interesting point in opposition to the bill:
@JerryBrownGov As an educator & parent, I am urging you to VETO #SB328 Many valley students rely on their working parents for transportation to school daily will NOT benefit. Students will still be dropped off early so their parents can get to work defeating the bill’s intention
— Paul Raheb #CountryAboveParty (@PaulRaheb) September 5, 2018
Health benefits and implementation concerns aside, kids missing school and performing poorly due to a lack of sleep could be costing the country billions of federal dollars. According to a study done by The RAND Corporation, a nationwide move to at least 8:30 a.m. start times could bring in $83 billion to the U.S. economy within a decade because it would theoretically result in higher academic and professional performance and would reduce car crash rates among tired students.
“The significant economic benefits from simply delaying school start times to 8.30 a.m. would be felt in a matter of years, making this a win-win, both in terms of benefiting the public health of adolescents and doing so in a cost-effective manner,” Wendy Troxel, senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, said in a press release.
What do you think about states mandating 8:30 a.m. start times for schools?