It’s not difficult to imagine Gwyneth Paltrow waking up at the crack of dawn to start her day, but that isn’t stopping the mother-of-two from advocating for her children to get more sleep.
The 45-year-old lifestyle guru’s website, Goop, has published an interview with sleep specialist Dr. Rafael Pelayo about the health consequences that occur when adolescents have early start times at school.
Pelayo, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, stressed that sleep deprivation can do more than just affect a child’s performance at school.
‘Lack of sleep has been associated with all kinds of mental health issues in adolescents, like depression and suicidal thinking, as well as physical problems and school performance,’ he said.
‘When you don’t get enough sleep, you become inattentive. So there’s a whole host of potential physical, mental, and academic problems.’
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teenagers aged 13 to 18 years should regularly sleep eight to ten hours per day, but a majority of them are sleep deprived, partially because of early start times.
Gwyneth’s children Apple, 14, and Moses, 12, attend private school in Los Angeles, although it’s unclear what time their days begin.
However, the actress has stated that she gets ‘at least seven or eight hours of good, quality sleep — and ideally even ten.’
Pelayo recently supported Senate Bill 328, which called for middle schools and high schools in California to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Despite the scientific findings about sleep deprivation in teens, Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed the legislation.
‘This is a one-size-fits-all approach that is opposed by teachers and school boards,’ Brown said in a veto message.
‘Several schools have already moved to later start times. Others prefer beginning the school day earlier. These are the types of decisions best handled in the local community.’
Students across the nation are facing similar issues. According to the 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, 93 per cent of high schools and 83 per cent of middle schools in the U.S. started before 8:30 a.m.
Pushing back start times has become a hot-button issue because it would force both schools and families to change their daily schedules.
Critics argue that children should just have earlier bedtimes, but Pelayo explained that adolescents are biologically predisposed to stay up.
‘When we go through puberty, we have a biological shift in the way we sleep,’ he said. ‘Young people have a natural tendency to stay up later.’
Pelayo admitted that he had his own doubts when a Minnesota school principal named Kyla Wahlstrom advocated for a later start time at her school in the 1990s.
Like many other skeptics, the doctor figured the kids would just stay up later and end up getting the same amount of sleep.
However, when the start time was pushed back almost an hour, the students got, on average, forty more minutes of sleep a night.
Pelayo said the school’s superintendent noticed that students were not only in better moods, but they were tardy less and had improvements in their academic performance.
Other high schools around the country had similar results after implementing later start times. They also noticed that there were fewer teenage car accidents.
Since 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later.
Three years later, the RAND Corporation, an American nonprofit global policy think tank, did an economic analysis that deduced delaying school start times was a cost-effective way to reduce the number of car accidents and increase academic performance.
The study projects that pushing start times to 8:30 a.m. would add a gain of $8.6 billion to the U.S. economy in just two years. It would contribute an estimated $83 billion in 10 years and $140 billion in 15 years.
‘We need parents and students to continue to learn about — and advocate for — young people’s sleep health,’ Pelayo told Goop.
‘This information should be taught in the health and science classes at all school levels. Schools should not be able to force unhealthy practices on our children.’