Bradley Hospital Sleep Experts Assess California’s Legislation for Later School Start Times
Middle and high school students gained more sleep time in 2019. That is when California passed and signed into law the first US statewide legislation explicitly designed to protect adolescent sleep health by requiring most California public school districts to start no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools.
The bill received international attention and is considered a benchmark for similar legislation in the US and abroad. The law’s three-year implementation period provides an unprecedented and timely opportunity for researchers interested in translating adolescent sleep research into policy and prompted experts in adolescent sleep and school start times to collectively review extensive research and identify innovative research areas that might be informed by California’s groundbreaking law.
Pandemic Experience Supports New Thinking about School Start Times
Mary Carskadon, PhD, director of chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital, and a pioneer in sleep research, served as an honorary chair of the Summit on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Times, held in January 2021 and hosted by Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The US National Sleep Foundation, other sleep organizations and universities supported the summit.
“This virtual summit was a remarkable opportunity to convene under extraordinary circumstances – a pandemic,” Dr. Carskadon noted. “We were witnessing, in real-time, how international school systems pivoted in the face of a public health crisis. This experience in remote learning and mixed, flexible schedules can support new thinking about the need for and feasibility of operating schools at times that allow adolescents an opportunity for healthy sleep which is, essentially, a human right.”
Jared M. Saletin, PhD, associate director of Bradley Sleep Laboratory and assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, also took part in the summit. He and Dr. Carskadon are among the team of experts that co-authored a January 2022 article with their findings in the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) journal Sleep Health. Titled, “Adolescent Sleep Health and School Start Times: Setting the Research Agenda for California and Beyond--A Research Summit Summary,” the article highlighted the importance of later start times for adolescents.
Supporting Student Sleep with Education, Community Engagement and Multi-Disciplinary Research
In simple terms, the summit concluded that later school start times improve adolescent sleep, health, safety, and learning. Experts called out the need to identify the most effective ways to build school health policies that support student sleep, as well as educate the wider school community. More broadly, the summit determined that community-engaged sleep research using a multi-disciplinary approach is required to support school and community leaders delaying school start times. The research will be critical in helping to inform school and workplace policies that support the basic human right for quality sleep for all stakeholders.
The paper's conclusions support NSF's sleep healthy policy statement on healthy adolescent school start times, including its recommendations for research and policy efforts to help communities move to school schedules that allow students an opportunity to get healthy sleep.