New California school start times let kids get more sleep

A new school year has begun, and it’s back to making sure your kids wake up in time for class. But this year, it might be a little easier for California college students who have trouble getting out of bed.

Thanks to a new state law requiring middle and high school start times to be later than they have been in the past, most teens and tweens will get more sleep — something scientists say is crucial for their overall health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 out of 10 high school students don’t get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Sumit Bhargava, MD, a pediatric sleep medicine specialist at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, said this was partly down to societal demands.

“Teenagers get sleepy much later in the evening than elementary school students,” he explained. “As such, a high school student going through adolescence will need a later bedtime. But, in most cases, they have to wake up relatively early to go to school, so the ‘sleep-deprived teenager has trouble waking up and then feeling drowsy or falling asleep in class.’

California law, which took effect July 1, requires classes to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. in all public high schools and no earlier than 8 a.m. in all middle schools.

Adopt good sleeping habits

Research has shown that getting enough sleep not only improves academic performance, but may also protect against chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, and support healthy brain development.

But what if going to school later makes your teen feel like they can go to bed later too?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.

“Sleep should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle, and good sleep habits can be both taught and learned,” Bhargava said. “Something that’s key to maintaining the circadian rhythm of teens with varying sleep onset and duration is having a consistent wake-up time every morning. That, and avoiding oversleeping on weekends.”

Along with general advice that includes setting a bedtime schedule and turning off all screens, Bhargava also suggests keeping phones or tablets outside the teen’s bedroom at night.

“Research has shown that even the presence of a charger can reduce sleep duration by 20 to 30 minutes,” he said.

There is no catching up

While teens may think they can make up for lost hours of sleep over the weekend, they are unlikely to. Research has shown that it can take up to four days to recover from an hour of sleep deficit and up to nine days to eliminate sleep debt, which is the cumulative effect of the hours of sleep your body gets. requires.

“Short-term recovery happens with naps, but if your teen takes a nap late in the afternoon, it will cause a delay in falling asleep that night, setting up a cycle of decreasing duration. sleep, daytime sleepiness and increased sleep debt,” Bhargava added.

Finally, Bhargava pointed out, sleep problems are unique to each person. So if your child is having trouble sleeping, it’s important to see their health care provider or a sleep specialist.

A version of this article originally published on the Stanford Medicine Children’s Health Health blog, Happy Lives.

Photo by Evelien

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