Schools introduce later start times to battle sleep deprivation in kids

22 August 2022, 13:34 | Updated: 22 August 2022, 13:56

Experts have argued that more sleep will improve students' mental health and grades
Experts have argued that more sleep will improve students' mental health and grades. Picture: Getty
Alice Dear

By Alice Dear

California has become the first state in the US to mandate later school start times, but do you think it would help kids in the UK?

Schools in the state of California are no long legally allowed to hold classes before 8:30am in a bid to help battle sleep deprivation in children and teens.

The landmark law was passed in 2019 and came into effect on July 1.

The mandate means that students attending public high schools cannot attend classes before 8:30am, while middle school students can't attend classes any earlier than 8:00am.

The state is attempting to tackle sleep deprivation in children and teens, which can lead to poor grades and poor mental health.

Students in California will now be able to have more time in bed
Students in California will now be able to have more time in bed. Picture: Getty

Speaking to TODAY, parenting journalist Lisa Lewis said she supports the change in law, explaining that: "Based on years of study, shifting to healthy start times is a proven way to make a difference."

Neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Steven Lockley, also spoke to the publication.

He told them: "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."

Professor Lockley is highly educated in this issue, having co-authored a study done here in the UK which showed how beneficial a 10:00am start time has on students' exam results and sickness.

He argued that sleep is vital for teenagers and children, and helps with alertness and performance as well as learning and health.

"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", he said: "It will also improve the learning during sleep that results from the better attention."

There has been a petition in place in the past where UK schools were being encouraged to start at 10:00am
There has been a petition in place in the past where UK schools were being encouraged to start at 10:00am. Picture: Getty

People have been debating their thoughts on the new mandate online, with many commenting that the idea is great, but that the time kids are required to be at school is still too early.

One person commented online: "Great idea, but not enough. The start time should have been 9:00 AM. We don't live in a rural society where people have to get up at the crack of dawn to feed the chickens and milk the cows."

Others, however, are not happy with the changes, arguing that the new times do not align with the parents' working hours.

They wrote: "The reason this is a bad idea is that parent’s work schedules won’t magically change. They still have to be at work the same time. Meaning their kids still have to wake up the same time so the parent can get them to school. The kid will just be waiting at school now."

The question is, could these laws come into place in the UK?

Well, there was a petition calling for schools to start at 10:00am doing the rounds back in 2019 that gained 187,902 signatures over a period of six months.

The issue was debated in parliament, and the response from the Department of Education read: "The Department has no plans to require secondary schools to start later. The decision on when to start the school day lies with individual schools."

But tell us what you think!

Read more: