Let Me Sleep!

California schools enact later start times for their students

Sachin Gulati, Staff Writer

Approximately one month ago, on October 13th, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that pushes back schools’ starting times. Under the new law, middle schools will start at 8 AM at the earliest, while high schools will start at 8:30 AM (1). While many have proposed later school start times, and every student in the world wants later start times, California is the first state to officially sign these changes into law. 

The introduction of this new law hopes to provide numerous benefits to the students. First, students will be able to catch up on sleep and thereby be better prepared and rested for the later starting school day. The National Sleep Foundation has found that teens need at least nine hours of sleep for optimal performance, health and brain development. In reality, teens average fewer than seven hours of sleep, and many arrive at school in a sleep-deprived condition. Schools starting later aims to improve students’ sleep schedules and could help give students more sleep (2). This was proven when a private high school in Rhode Island showed that shifting school start times from 8 AM to 8:30 AM increased the number of students getting eight hours of sleep a night from 16% to 55%. Attendance improved and fewer students visited the health center, indicating general improvements in health (3). 

Additionally, starting the school day later could help students sleep schedules in the future. The National Sleep Schedule finds that due to student sleep deprivation, melatonin secretion occurs later in life for adolescents, and this makes it more difficult for adults to go to sleep at an earlier time (4). In other words, students are getting to sleep later and later and sleeping less and less, and scientists have proven that this is harmful to adolescents’ future sleep patterns. If more states were to introduce California’s new policy, students would get better sleep patterns both now and in the future. Therefore, later school start times would help both present and future sleep schedules of students. 

However, some believe that later school start times would lead to some negative effects. Indeed, John Cline finds that later school start times could disrupt parents’ work schedules, limit the amount of time for after school activities and after-school jobs, and may lead to schools extending their hours. These reasons may cause some states to hesitate to implement these laws as changes in start times could affect the lives of students and parents for the worse. 

Ultimately, schools starting later would help students sleep patterns, but may also negatively alter the schedules of students and their parents. Therefore, let me sleep!


(1) https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/14/health/california-later-school-start-times-trnd/index.html

(2) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/backgrounder-later-school-start-times

(3) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleepless-in-america/201102/do-later-school-start-times-really-help-high-school-students

(4) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/backgrounder-later-school-start-times