Readers React: Why early-morning school start times and the adolescent brain don’t mix


To the editor: Your editorial, “It’s too early to move all California middle and high schools to a later start,” ignored the overwhelming body of research showing the definitive benefits of more sleep for students — something researchers have known for more than 25 years, much of which has been reported in the Los Angeles Times dating back at least to 1997.

Furthermore, the editorial contradicts itself, stating, on one hand, that “better sleep for teenagers is associated with improved mood, higher academic achievement and reduced rates of drinking and drug use,” while also claiming the research does not make a convincing case for delaying California’s middle- and high-school start times.

Although we know from hundreds of different school districts that students and communities benefit when classes start at 8:30 a.m., adult interests have prevented most local districts from acting on this knowledge for a generation. That is why California’s SB 328 is a landmark piece of public health legislation. It empowers every district to start at times that align with the biological sleep shift in the adolescent brain, enabling all students across California’s socioeconomic divide to obtain more sleep and, as a result, stay in school, do better academically and live healthier, safer, more successful lives.


California is positioned to lead the U.S. and prevent exposing yet another generation to what we know are unhealthy, counterproductive and inequitable hours.

Amy R. Wolfson, Ph.D, Baltimore

Judith Owens, MD, Cambridge, Mass.

Rafael Pelayo, MD, Stanford, Calif.

Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D, Severna Park, Md.

Wolfson is a professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Owens is a professor of neurology and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Harvard, Pelayo is a clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Science and Medicine, and Terra Ziporyn Snider is executive director of the group Start School Later.



To the editor: Why upset parents’ schedules, athletic schedules, teacher schedules and more so students can get just a half-hour more sleep? Wouldn’t it be easier to just make students go to bed a half-hour earlier?

Roger Chang, South Pasadena