For The First Time Ever, A U.S. State Now Mandates Later School Start Times

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Imagine if there were an easy way for the teenager in your home to do better in school without having to work harder and without feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted. Some experts believe there is, and one state is taking a stand to mandate the potential educational benefits for children.

What’s the easy solution to less stress and higher test scores? Sleep.

The answer isn’t as easy as telling your kids to go to sleep earlier. It turns out that natural circadian rhythms make it difficult for adolescents to go to sleep too early in the evening. There is another solution – let the children sleep in a little longer.

In 2019, the state of California passed a law that mandates that high school students at public schools can not start school any earlier than 8:30am, and middle school students cannot start school any earlier than 8am. These changes went into effect at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.

Parenting journalist Lisa Lewis told TODAY Parents, “We know, based on years of study, that shifting to healthy start times is a proven way to make a difference.” California is currently the only state with minimum start times, but Lewis hopes California’s new law “boosts similar actions elsewhere.”

Harvard neuroscientist Steven Lockley agrees. He explained, “Early school start times guarantee that children, and particularly adolescents, will become sleep deprived as their circadian clocks and sleep regulation systems naturally push sleep to a later time, making it harder to go to sleep early enough to get sufficient sleep before school.” He added, “If you don’t sleep, you can’t learn, and therefore not only will better sleep improve alertness and attention in the daytime at school, it will also improve the learning during sleep that results from the better attention.”

No matter what time school starts where you live, it is important to help your children go to sleep at an early enough time that they get the rest they need. Lockley explained that sleeping in isn’t the only way to help our children rest. He added that at night, parents need to make sure their children don’t have too much caffeine, avoid screens before bedtime, and try not to have such a big workload that they’re overcommitted and stressed out.

What time do your children start school? Do you think it would be beneficial if your children started school later? Do you think more states will take California’s lead and set minimum start times for school?