Wow! California Legislates More Sleep for Better Health

(Photo: Monkey Business images/Shutterstock)

Teenagers don’t get enough sleep, and California’s effort to fix the problem may serve as a wake-up call to other states’ lawmakers.

A law recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that mandates later start times for most students — no earlier than 8 a.m. in middle school and 8:30 a.m. in high school — is the first statewide response in the United States to overwhelming evidence that chronic lack of sleep impairs teens.

But it is hardly the only attempt to address the issue.

Individual cities, regions and school districts across the U.S. have tried for years to afford their students the sleep benefits of later school starts.

Their efforts are just one aspect of a broader societal phenomenon so harmful that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it a public health epidemic five years ago. Simply put, a staggering number of Americans — or, better said, a number of staggering Americans — don’t get enough sleep.

There is no simple way to alter that reality, a reminder of which will be heard early in the morning on Sunday, Nov. 3, as Daylight Saving Time ends, bringing with it the usual spate of sleep-related complications.

Last November, nearly 60% of California voters backed a ballot proposition to end twice-a-year clock changes, in part because of the havoc they wreak on sleep. State legislators followed with a bill to put California on permanent Daylight Saving Time.

It passed the Assembly earlier this year but is now on hold until 2020. Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), who introduced the legislation, said he wanted more time to explore the option of going on permanent standard time.

Only two states — Arizona and Hawaii — do not move their clocks every spring and autumn. Both abandoned the system in the late 1960s, noting that their residents receive plenty of sunlight year round.

Other states, including Minnesota, Florida and several more, have considered legislation to remain on Daylight Saving Time year-round. Oregon already passed a law to do so. But since legislators there wanted all the clocks on the West Coast showing the same time, their law is on hold until Washington and California do the same.

And to make the problem even more complicated, any state that jettisons biannual clock changing still needs approval from Congress.

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SOURCE: Kaiser Health News, Mark Kreidler

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