Early school start times lead to mental health issues


American teens are not getting enough sleep every night because of early school start times and the many things demanded of them every day, one expert warns.

Lisa Lewis, a California-based journalist and public health expert, warns that a majority of teenagers in America are not getting the recommended nine to 11 hours of sleep every night – but believes the issue can be fixed.

She points to early school start times as the main culprit, with many students forced to wake as early as 5 a.m. to attend class.

Many have warned that this severe sleep deprivation can lead to long-term mental health issues, riskier behavior patterns and even permanent brain damage caused by a lack of rest.

Lisa Lewis (pictured), warns that sleep deprivation among U.S. teens is leading to poor mental health across the board. She pins most of the blame of early school start times

Lewis has been an advocate of getting morning bells moved back in order to better accommodate America’s children, and hopes that her work can help teens live happier, healthier lives.

‘Too many teams are getting nowhere near the amount of sleep they need,’ Lewis told DailyMail.com.

She noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey found in 2019 that only 22 percent of high schoolers were getting at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Much of this can be tied to the schedule forced on teens because of their school.

Many teens are waking up before sunrise. After school, they have extracurricular activities, work and family duties to take care of as well – leading to them staying up longer than usual.

Teens are also tied to their phones, and with social media becoming an integral part of a young person’s life it is easy for them to lose a few hours at night scrolling. 

The same CDC survey also found that around 30 percent of high schoolers felt sad or hopeless, with a staggering one-in-every five had even considered suicide. Lewis believes sleep-deprivation is playing a key role.

‘We know that sleep deprivation does exacerbate mental health issues,’ she explained.

‘We have stronger emotions when we haven’t gotten enough sleep. It also heightens impulsive behavior, which sadly does play into suicidal behaviors.’

To combat this, Lewis became one of the nation’s leading advocates to shift back school start times.

In 2016 she penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, highlighting the risks of sleep-deprivation among America’s youth.

Key negatives to teens not getting enough sleep cited included increased missed time at school, better test scores in schools that started later, more traffic accidents and even less injury during team sports as student-athletes’ bodies were better rested.

Lewis explains the sleep-deprivation epidemic among teens in her new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive

Lewis explains the sleep-deprivation epidemic among teens in her new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive

She also highlights these concerns in her new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive.  

The op-ed caught the attention of a local legislator who pushed a bill that would prevent high schools in the state from starting before 8:30 A.M., and push middle school starts to 8 p.m. or later.

After passing in 2019, the law is set to go into effect for the 2022-23 school year beginning this fall.

The law does not come without detractors, though. Teachers unions in the state rallied against it. In an op-ed published earlier this year, Jeremy Adams, a Bakersfield high school teacher, wrote:

‘This is a disaster in the making.

‘Trustees are burned out and tired of being yelled at by everyone with an axe to grind. Administrators are colossally overwhelmed and frankly look like zombies these days as they pivot from one crisis to the next. Teachers are demoralized, dis-spirited, and honestly, many of us are at a breaking point…

‘The last thing students need right now is less stability, less routine and less predictability from one year to the next. This is not the time for more changes.’

One of his primary concerns is that students will not have time to take part in many extra-curriculars after school hours as the final bell will ringing later in the day.

Lewis does not see this as a particularly large issue, though. She said that teens that work after school often work the dinner hours anyways.

There is no data pointing to a correlation between the end of a scheduled school day and changes in extra-curricular participation either – meaning that teens are unlikely to be pushed out of sports.

While they will have an hour less at the end of the day, gaining an hour of sleep earlier in the day will lead to overall better health and school performance.

She is pushing for other parents around the country to fight for similar changes in their own communities to help fix the teen sleep-deprivation epidemic. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk