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California Middle and High Schools Will Start the School Day Later by 2021

In a goal of addressing teens’ sleep deprivation issues, the California legislature is giving most middle and high schools three years to start their school days later, to no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The time changes must take place by July 1, 2021, or by the time a district’s teacher collective bargaining plan that is effective in January 2019 expires, whichever is later, according to Psychology Today. The time change was approved only after the bill’s sponsors wrote in exemptions for rural schools and added a “zero” period, which is an optional extra-period class some schools offer before the start of the day.

Only time will tell whether the extra half-hour or so in the morning will actually give teens more sleep time, as opposed to just encouraging them to stay up a half-hour later at night. But whatever the students do with that time, there’s no question that we’ve become a sleep-deprived world. And, from sleepy schoolchildren to drowsy adults at work, lack of sleep adds up to physical, emotional and social problems that can be hard to overcome.

In adults, sleep quality influences behavior at work; in students, the behavioral problems that sleepiness can cause may even affect them years later. So, if they’re burning the midnight oil hoping to get ahead in their schoolwork (as often happens from middle school, onward), the “productivity” actually is counterproductive. Thinking you can just catch up on that lost sleep doesn’t work, either, studies show.

The bottom line is even a single, sleep-deprived night can have severe implications for your health and cognitive performance. To address these issues with children, it’s important to begin early by establishing a sleep routine that includes turning off all electronics at least one hour, and preferably more, before they actually go to bed. Yes, this means turning off Facebook and all other social media, and not just internet access.

For more information on the amount of time your child needs each night, please see my article on “How Much Sleep Is ‘Enough?’” As a rule of thumb, teens and older need an average of eight hours of sleep a night. But, to make sure that’s good, solid, quality sleep, make sure to adhere to the no-electronics rule. In fact, turn off the electricity to the WiFi in your home, make sure the rooms your children sleep in are truly dark and keep the temperature in the bedrooms lower than 70 degrees F.

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