Saturday, September 23, 2023

To fight an epidemic of sleep loss, California is postponing school start times

Must read

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

in California, a new law came into effect on July 1, which is likely to make many teens happy. It delays school start times, requiring public high schools to start at 8:30 a.m. or later — half an hour later than the U.S. average — while high schools start at 8 a.m. or later. The result: Teens sleep in more.

This is the first law of its kind in the US and it’s a big step in the right direction.

Sleep loss is such a common problem that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared it a public health issue epidemic† It can be the result of insomnia, when you can’t fall asleep despite the chance to do so, or sleep deprivation, when your schedule denies you the opportunity.

Researchers at Columbia University say that teens, in particular, are in the midst of a “Great sleep recession† The proportion of American adolescents getting enough sleep has plummeted over the years. Adults don’t fare much better: We need at least seven hours of sleep a night, but only 35 percent of Americans report sleeping between seven and nine hours on average, according to Gallup’s State of Sleep in America 2022 Report

It wasn’t always like that. According to Gallup poll data from 2013In 1942, only 11 percent of us slept six hours or less a night, but that figure had risen to 42 percent by 1990.

Sleep loss is a huge problem because it is possible increases our risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and even early death. It can also cause a lot of emotional distress, from loneliness to anxiety. Plus, low-income people and racial minorities get less sleep than others, making this both an equity issue and a health problem.

Research shows that losing sleep can actually lead us to: behave unethically† When we are sleepy, our ability to resist temptation decreases, so we tend to act more selfishly and less cooperatively. Sleep-deprived people vote less, donate less and sign petitions less quickly.

So, what can be done to cure the sleep loss epidemic? The solutions we often throw at it – devices, drugs – often have serious drawbacks (more on that below). In addition, they focus on the individual. As a widespread public health problem, the epidemic of sleep loss calls for a solution that will help everyone, not just those who have the time and money to access individualized treatments.

“I think governments should intervene”

Experts blame the sleep loss epidemic a number of factorsincluding longer working hours, longer commute distances, excessive alcohol and coffee consumption, insufficient sunlight during the day and excessive artificial light at night. The invasion of technology in the bedroom harms us, both because the blue light from our screens tells our brains to stay awake, and because playing with our phones prompts us to delay sleep (just one more scroll!).

An apparent increase in anxiety – it’s one of the most common mental illness in the US – could also be a culprit here; it’s one of the main drivers of insomnia.

Then there’s the fact that sleep has an image problem. In many developed countries, the prevailing cultural assumption is that very little sleep means you are working hard, and a normal amount of sleep means you are lazy.

“That’s a terrible stigma for us to have to fight in society,” said Matt Walker, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California Berkeley and the author of Why do we sleep?† “There’s this sleep-macho attitude, this boast, where we like to wear our insufficient sleep as a badge of honor.”

The association of sleep and laziness has seeped into family life, with parents often pushing their teens to “get up and shine” instead of “wasting the day” in bed, Walker said.

But teens need more sleep than adults—eight to 10 hours a night—and they have a natural tendency to… fall asleep later and wake up later due to a shift in circadian rhythms that begins in puberty. To give them ample opportunity to sleep, American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC say schools should start at 8:30 a.m. or later. Even so, most U.S. high schools and high schools still open earlier.

That California passed a law that delays school start times, it may encourage others, such as: New York and New Jerseyconsidering similar legislation.

That would be great: research shows that teenagers school performance and mental and physical health improve when they are allowed to sleep in. It can even be life-saving: A study found that later school hours are associated with a decline in teenage car accidents

Once students are in school, more can be done to teach them the importance of a good night’s sleep. Just like we have sex, maybe we should have slept.

“Why don’t we work with the World Health Organization to create a standardized sleep educational toolkit, translated into many languages ​​for many countries?” Walker suggested, adding that hospitals should also put up posters with recommendations about sleep, just as they put up posters about getting flu shots and exercise.

“I think governments should get involved,” Walker said. “The first thing they can do is make people aware of the importance of sleep, with an announcement or public policy. There is no memorable set of information, visual or otherwise, that has been given to the public.”

In contrast, many of us have seen the US Department of Agriculture iconic image of a plate show how much we should eat of each food group.

The government needs to be motivated to make sure we all get enough sleep – if not out of health concern, then out of concern for the economy. Since sleep loss negatively impacts our well-being, it reduces our productivity at work, which comes with economic costs.

A Rand Corporation report quantifying these costs found that the US loses $411 billion a year, or 2.28 percent of its GDP, due to insufficient sleep. And yet small changes could really help: If Americans who sleep less than six hours get six to seven hours of sleep, it could add $226.4 billion to the economy. That is certainly an investment that is worth it.

Therapy, apps, pills: do they make for a better night’s sleep?

For people who suffer from insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy can help. CBT focuses on challenging maladaptive behaviors or negative thinking patterns (in the context of sleep, that could be, “I couldn’t sleep last night, so I bet I won’t be able to sleep tonight!”). its spin-off, CBT-I, has been developed over the past 20 years to specifically target insomnia. It’s so effective that it’s now “usually recommended as the first-line treatment for insomnia,” according to the sleep physician Guy Leschziner

But therapy can be expensive, time consuming and difficult to access. So in recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of apps like Sleepio that claim to cure our sleep problems with gamified exercises extracted from CBT. But just because CBT exercises work in a clinical setting doesn’t automatically mean they will work when delivered through gamified apps. The apps need a deeper evidence base.

A host of other technologies claim to help with our sleep, such as Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other wearable sleep trackers. But experts say this one can paradoxically make our sleep worse by increasing our anxiety and becoming obsessed with achieving perfect sleep, a real condition known as orthosomnia.

And then, of course, there is the plethora of sleeping pills on the market.

Unfortunately, many prescription sleep aids are less effective than many people think and can be addictive. Melatonin, marketed as a naturally produced hormone, has become a popular alternative, but like many dietary supplements in America, it is not well regulated, sold in excessive doses, and the risks of long-term use have not been assessed.

That’s not to say there aren’t conditions under which it makes sense to take melatonin or another sleep aid. But as a solution to our global epidemic of sleep loss, they are inherently limited.

There are broader social conditions that cause sleep loss. Low-income people and racial minorities get less sleep than others. This also applies to people who live in noisy neighborhoods and who work irregular shifts. In fact, night shift work classified as likely carcinogenic because of the way it disrupts circadian rhythms.

Scientists have found that you feel stressed or unsafe – due to anything from: racial discrimination to the Covid-19 pandemic – often translates into poor sleep as it signals the brain to remain vigilant.

The ethical implication here is that if we really want to help all people get the sleep they need, we can’t just say “there’s an app for that” or “there’s a pill for that” and put the burden on the individual. lay to solve the problem. We need to change the social conditions that keep us awake in the first place.


More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest article