Lofgren Asks for Review of HS Start Times, Cites Sleep Cycle Research

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California has plans to introduce a new bill asking lawmakers to consider a later start time for public schools.

The legislation would ask the Department of Education to conduct a study into how sleep effects student performance and overall health.

This is not the first bill Lofgren has addressed the topic.  Two years ago, she lobbied for high schools across the nation to hold a later starting time of 9am.  That proposal did not succeed.

Most high schools typically begin between 7am and 8am.

“As I have long advocated, and as the American Academy of Pediatrics recently confirmed, adjusting school start times can be an important tool to improve students’ health and performance,” Lofgren said Tuesday. “This study will help local school districts recognize and use new information about the importance of sufficient sleep and the impact that school start times can have on adolescent well-being.”

The House has not suggested whether or not the new bill will be considered, but for the most part there is a strong resistance to any sort of federal control over local education systems.

However, Lofgren spokesman Peter Whippy said that with all the research coming out now concerning the health benefits associated with a later start time, her bill could be seriously considered this time around.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a high school start time should be 8:30am at the earliest in order to better align with the adolescent sleep cycle.  Currently only 15% of public high schools across the country adhere to that late a start time.

A new study suggests that not getting enough sleep is what causes teens to act the way they do. Because the human body is going through so many changes during adolescence, teenagers are prone to staying awake later and find it difficult to fall asleep before 11pm.

The study suggests that the early start time at most high schools may be negatively affecting learning, saying: “our ability to function optimally [and learn], varies with biological time rather than conventional social times.”

Earlier studies on the sleep habits of adolescents have found that a later start time for the school day is connected to better focus and higher productivity.

“Good policies should be based on good evidence and the data show that children are currently placed at an enormous disadvantage by being forced to keep inappropriate education times,” the authors wrote.

There have also been multiple studies to support the habits of night owls.  A study from the London School of Economics found that people who moved their schedules around to mimic that of a night owl were more intelligent and had higher IQs than those who had daytime schedules.  Separate studies show that creative people do their best work at night.

“Over time, sleep deprivation leads to serious consequences for academic achievement, social behavior, and the health and safety of our nation’s youth,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said in 1999 after leading a resolution to spur schools into later start times. “We must encourage schools to push back their start times… a schedule more in tune with adolescents’ biological sleep and wake patterns and more closely resembling the adult work day.”