EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If your teenager isn’t getting anywhere from eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, every night, chances are they are living in a state of chronic sleep loss.
That’s why sleep experts believe pushing back school start times will benefit students’ overall health.
“Even a couple hours of short sleep every night can have a detrimental impact on the way we think … our ability to focus during the day,” Bradley Hospital’s Dr. Jaren Saletin explained. “Our metabolism and our immune system … they’re all taking a hit by inadequate sleep.”
Saletin, the associate director of Bradley’s Sleep Research Laboratory, said he believes the conversation about delaying the start of school is worth having.
“There’s evidence to show that even an hour of delayed school for high schoolers, yes, it’s associated with more sleep, but it’s also associated with better grades and better outcomes for teens,” he explained.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2014 that middle and high schools begin classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and research shows teenagers benefit from eight to ten hours of sleep nightly.
“On a practical level, this research indicates that the average teenager in today’s society has difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. and is best suited to wake at 8 a.m. or later,” the study states.
The benefits of delaying school start times is already being felt in Seattle, Washington. The school district reorganized school start times several years ago, shifting all of its 18 high school start times an hour later.
The University of Washington then conducted a study to compare student grade point average and attendance before and after the change. The study found that both improved with an extra hour of sleep.
California took it step further by passing a first-of-its-kind law in 2019 that requires high school start times be no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle school start times be no earlier than 8 a.m.
The new law went into effect this July, making California the first state to implement a statewide mandate.
The conversation regarding pushing school start times later has been held locally, specifically in Barrington and East Greenwich.
Even though no such law has been considered in Rhode Island, Saletin said students can ensure they’re getting enough sleep by keeping a consistent schedule.
Saletin said by staying up late and trying to make up for lost sleep later on, students will have a difficult time getting into a routine.