California Pushes Back School Start Times So Kids Can Get More Sleep

Ashley Hunte
An alarm clock next to a mug and books.
Unsplash | Jessica Delp

What time did your school start growing up? Depending on the state you grew up in, that answer would probably be around 8am, but could be as early as 7:30.

For an adult, starting a college course or job in the early morning is no big deal. But for kids and teenagers, being expected to wake up early to start school often does more harm than good.

Studies show that teenagers (between 13 and 18) need 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

Teens are also "hardwired" to stay up later than kids or older adults, because their bodies release melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep) later, usually around 11pm.

The time at which a teen might go to bed doesn't really stack up with the time they're expected to be at school.

Teens' brains don't really start to be alert until after 8am, which is another factor that makes early school start times less than ideal.

Which is why California has decided to regulate later school start times.

The law, which was passed in 2019 but didn't officially take effect until July 1st, 2022, requires schools to start no earlier than 8:30 am for high schoolers, and 8:00 for middle school.

This is in the hopes that teens will get more sleep and be healthier overall.

Studies have shown that that single half hour can lead to more teens getting eight or more hours of sleep every night, which is pretty amazing.

Being less tired during the day has effects in other areas, too.

A person driving along an icy road.
Unsplash | Jaromír Kavan

Further research shows that a later school start time could lead to up to 70% fewer teen car crashes compared to schools that start a half hour earlier.

With these findings, it's pretty clear that earlier doesn't always mean better.

A woman under pillows and covers, with a pair of glasses in one hand.
Unsplash | Isabella and Zsa Fischer

Being able to get enough sleep is important for teenage development. It means better performance in sports and academics, as well as being mentally and emotionally healthier, which is pretty important in such an emotional time like high school.

California isn't the only state to attempt to legislate school start times.

An alarm clock on a bedside table.

Twenty-two states have attempted to introduce laws that would regulate later start times for middle and high schools, though it seems that California is the only state that has been successful so far.

Other states have more reservations on shifting start times.

A school bus driving along a sparse highway.
Unsplash | Elijah Ekdahl

Arguments against pushing school start times back include scheduling for families, re-working bus routes, and other disruptions that may have some kind of impact on kids and their households.

Some states simply don't think it should be up to the government to set the start times.

A classroom full of empty desks and chairs.
Unsplash | MChe Lee

The New Jersey School Boards Association, for example, believe it should be up to the schools to determine the time classes start, not the state.

But for the students, this seems like a good idea.

A kid writing math equations in a notebook.
Unsplash | Joshua Hoehne

Now, if only schools could implement other strategies to make sure students can get adequate sleep, such as limiting the amount of homework kids have to take home (which can add up and take hours to complete).

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!