Impact of Sleep Deprivation on High School Students (Rappaport & Halpern)


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Newsletter: High School Student Sleep Deprivation


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).






    In Michigan, early high-school start times have sparked a sleep deprivation epidemic, which is causing cognitive, physical, and emotional distress among high school students. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teens ages 13-18 must sleep 8 to 10 hours every night—but current start times in high schools across Michigan make this exceedingly difficult. According to a 2014 survey by Columbia University, over 90% of American high school students are chronically sleep deprived, averaging between 7 and 7.5 hours of sleep per night.


This lack of sleep causes a variety of problems with respect to students’ mental, physical, and emotional health. According to the NCBI, 40% of mood disorder cases present pre-existing sleep disorders. Moreover, people with insomnia are “10 times as likely to have clinical depression and 17 times as likely to have clinical anxiety.” Sleep deprivation is not only impactful to mental health, but also increases risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and youth car accidents. Clearly, action needs to be taken. Teens that get more than 8 hours of sleep report a significantly lower number of depression symptoms, less use of caffeine, and a lower risk for substance use. Academically, attendance rates as well as test performance are higher with later start times.


The state of Michigan has grappled with late start times for decades, but recently, progressive public school systems have successfully lobbied their local governments to improve start times. In the 2017-2018 school year, Ann Arbor Public Schools established a new option by which students could begin classes after 8:30 am, instead of its traditional start time of an hour earlier. The initiative was funded by Start School Later, a nonprofit with chapter presence in the state of Michigan that is dedicated to extending school start times due to the high cognitive and physical benefits that Michigan students are apt to gain. The organization has had other success as well; in 2012, it successfully lobbied Dearborn representatives to push back start times, which still remains in effect today.


By working with Start School Later, we aim to learn more about what we can do to convince legislators about the importance of later school start times and positively impact students’ emotional and physical health. By raising community awareness on the health and emotional benefits of reducing sleep deprivation, we also aim to convince more parents that later start times are important, as only 51% of the state’s parents support the cause. Finally, above all, we aim to convince Michigan representatives to take Ann Arbor’s and Dearborn’s lead and increase school start times state-wide, as the research shows the positive cognitive, emotional, and physical effects it can have on Michigan students.


Wahlstrom, K., Dretzke, B., Gordon, M., Peterson, K., Edwards, K., & Gdula, J. (2014). Examining the Impact of Later School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. St Paul, MN: University of Minnesota.

Watson NF, Martin JL, Wise MS, Carden KA, Kirsch DB, Kristo DA, Malhotra RK, Olson EJ, Ramar K, Rosen IM, Rowley JA, Weaver TE, Chervin RD. Delaying middle school and high school start times promotes student health and performance: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017;13(4):623–625.

Charles E. Basch, Ph.D., professor, health and education, Teacher's College, Columbia University, New York City

Gupta, Madhulika A., and Fiona C. Simpson. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Psychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 11.2 (2015): 165–175. PMC. Web. 12 Mar. 2018.

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.


Only 51% of parents in Michigan are proponents of later school start times. This is because many opponents do not see the link between increased start times and better sleep; some parents argue that students will just delay their day and go to sleep later, not actually getting more sleep but just inconveniencing parents. However, analysis of the situation shows that students’ biological clocks are set so that it’s extremely difficult for students to go to bed at earlier times naturally. Therefore, we recommend that there be statewide education initiatives to teach parents about later start times, and how it will synchronize with teens’ natural sleep patterns to improve their academic performance, as well as physical and mental health. This will raise awareness of the issue and convince parents to take a greater stand in the issue, whether or not they disagree with it.


In the state of Michigan already, school districts like Ann Arbor and Dearborn have successfully lobbied their representatives to establish an option for later high school times, in partnership with Start School Later. We believe that we can bring this solution state wide in order to help students achieve greater sleep, which can translate to better emotional, physical, and mental health. Studies in Ann Arbor and Dearborn have shown that this program is successful. We aim to make it so that later start times, specifically starting school at 8:30am, are optional - students can participate if they chose to, and following the Ann Arbor program, enroll in summer courses, community college courses, or pursue an alternative form of receiving credit for a class that they missed. This ensures that delaying start times will not cause any troubles for students who specifically can not accomodate to the early start time. In addition, we aim to increase bus routes that make getting to school at a later start time possible. By lobbing Michigan representatives to make this option statewide, we aim to make later start times accessible to all.


Over 85% of all schools in the US have start times before 8:30, and progress is slow. Given the possibility that a bill could not pass to make start times statewide, it is important to broadly explore other options that align with the vision to promote better sleep. We believe that high schools across Michigan could establish a transparent program educating students in health classes extensively about the benefits of sleep, and how sleep improves cognitive and physical performance, as well as emotional health. For example, every high school would have a required unit in their health curriculum about practices for attempting to get sufficient sleep, such as not using phones at night time, not watching TV before bed, etc. We believe that this could help temporarily address the issue.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.


Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.


Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?



The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.




(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).





(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?




Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  



These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.


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