Health experts urge school officials to delay first dates for student health

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Children across the country are back in school. But this year, some students are getting too much sleep.

The first law of its kind would require all high schools in California to start earlier than 8:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. or later to help middle school students get much-needed sleep.

13-year-old Robert Greenway is enjoying his new job before school. “Last school year, it was like get up, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. “They’re zombies in the morning and trying to wake them up is really stressful,” says Robert’s mother, Christine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers get 8-10 hours of sleep. Studies show that nearly 70% don’t get it, which increases the risk of depression, low grades, obesity, and suicidal thoughts.

“Teenagers have serious sleep problems,” says Dr. Sachin Panda of the Salk Institute in San Diego.

Dr. Panda is a leading researcher in circadian rhythm science, conducting sleep studies across the country. His research shows that late start time has a big impact on the classroom. “They actually learn better. Their grades improved by 4.5%, their absenteeism decreased and overall the teenagers felt a lot better about themselves,” said Dr. Panda.

For the first time later this year, Robert says, “I felt like I was more focused and, um, more productive.”

Critics of the later school start times say the change will hit schools with administrative and operational pressures, require more scheduling of extracurricular activities and disrupt parents’ schedules.

Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey are considering a later school start. About 20% of American high schools start after 8:30 a.m., which is the time recommended by the AAP.

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