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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Sad, sleepy teens: Will starting school later improve mental health?

Worried about the teen mental health crisis, nine states and a number of major cities are considering mandating later start times for middle and high schools to help adolescents get more sleep, reports AP's Brooke Schultz.


Photo: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

California's later-start law, the first of its kind nationwide, went into effect in the fall. Middle schools now start no earlier than 8 am and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.


Educators hope to lessen sleep deprivation and stress, writes Sharon Brandwein on Sleepopolis.


Seattle changed start times years ago, she writes. A study showed that high school students got 34 additional minutes of sleep each night, boosting sleep time to seven hours and 24 minutes. Attendance and grades improved.


Sleep cycles change as children hit their teens, says Lisa L. Lewis, author of The Sleep-Deprived Teen. Most don't feel sleepy until about 11 p.m., yet need 8 to 10 hours of sleep. "When schools start too early in the morning – as early as 7 a.m., in some cases – it can make it virtually impossible for them to be able to get the amount of sleep they need.”


Teens may get to school at 7:30 am, but "their brain is actually completely asleep," says Dr. Shelby Harris, Sleepopolis’ director of sleep health.

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9 Comments


Guest
May 15, 2023

In high school, I would go to bed by 10:30 most nights, but would almost never *fall* asleep until 1:30 am. I literally laid in bed for 3 hours day after day for years, hoping I would fall asleep. I wouldn't go out with friends on the weekends because I was so tired. The worst was during the season I had before-school sports practice, when I'd have to be at school before 7am. I was getting 4.5-5.5 hours of sleep on weekdays for four years straight. I actually went to the optometrist once because I couldn't see the board: they said my eyes were fine, I was just tired. It was absolutely miserable, and, looking back, I'm shocked I did…


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Guest
May 14, 2023

Do other countries experience this sleep-time problem, or is it solely of US provenance?


Is there any data showing a causal relationship between CA's later start time and student achievement?

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Guest
May 16, 2023
Replying to

My school changed to an 8:30 start time this year. Since I have 1st period prep I don't know if anyone is more awake or on time for 1st period, but I do know that a lot more kids are missing 5th/6th periods for sports now that we don't get out until 3:30.

--mrmillermathteacher

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Steve Sherman
Steve Sherman
May 13, 2023

They need to keep the prime babysitting hours to keep the parents happy

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Guest
May 13, 2023

A bare 50 year cycle in this edumedication trend. That is the best part of "education" is how nothing improves but all the "new" ideas recycle.


Back in '76, I looked forward to sleeping in as I entered high school. For the preceding 9 years, it was elementary, then middle school, then high school starts to accommodate buses. But then someone probably with a shiny new ED degree said, "wait, we shouldn't have 6 yr olds standing on the side of dark roads, they should start school later". So high schoolers got the early bus and start times. (unforeseen consequence was having teenagers free in the afternoon with houses full of beds and no adults). So now the high school…

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Guest
May 15, 2023
Replying to

Part of the early start time was to create time for more sports teams due to Title IX. When schools were required to have girls basketball teams along with boys teams, the early start created more slack to have team practices. There was also the issue of missing classes for school travel to competitions (sports and other).

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
May 13, 2023

Here's another example of big state educational overreach: try explaining to farmers, and their cows, how they all need to sleep until 7 a.m., and you'll start to understand why school timetabling has been a local decision for generations, not one made by the amateur legislators with big ambitions to fulfill during the short capital careers we inaugurated with the mistake that term limits continues to be.

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