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: The State School Aid Act of 1979, Section 388.1701.

This bill relates to our proposal because we are aiming to make the first period of school optional for students. In our proposal, we present solutions to meeting the 1,098 hours per year of education requirement.  

The following are MCL 388.1701 provisions regarding the amount of hours a student must spend in school every year:

"Except as otherwise provided in this section, each district shall provide at least 1,098 hours and, beginning in 2010-2011, the required minimum number of days of pupil instruction."

"Beginning in 2016-2017, the required minimum number of days of pupil instruction is 180."

The following are MCL 388.1701 provisions regarding the consequences of a school district's failure to comply with required hours:

Except as otherwise provided in this article, a district failing to comply with the required minimum hours and days of pupil instruction under this subsection shall forfeit from its total state aid allocation an amount determined by applying a ratio of the number of hours or days the district was in noncompliance in relation to the required minimum number of hours and days under this subsection. 


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:

This proposal has the potential to offer all high-school students across Michigan the opportunity to get the necessary sleep their bodies require. Currently, students statewide are experiencing cognitive, physical, and emotional distress because of a lack of sleep. These problems carry on into their adult lives, leading to potential long-term issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Our proposal aims to give students the option to get the proper amount of sleep they need in order to improve their mental, physical, and emotional health in both the short and long term.


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

We learned about the issues underlying our proposal through a combination of personal experiences, online research, and consultations with those experienced in the field. The information gathered from these sources allowed us to construct a well-researched and well-reasoned proposal that can aid in solving the sleep deprivation epidemic among Michigan high school students.


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


Our project is heavily reliant on advocacy and working closely with communities to understand their needs and how they can be shaped by legislature. Therefore, we wanted to work with an organization as closely connected to advocacy as possible. With a desire to learn more about community advocacy, we chose to both volunteer with Books for a Benefit, which is centered around advocating for increased accessibility to early childhood literacy within Michigan communities.


The work we are aiming to pursue is centered around mobilizing communities for social change, and Books for a Benefit aligns with that mission. Volunteering with Books for a Benefit, we developed a toolkit for inciting social change that we aim to carry to our proposal.


First, we learned that a large driver of change is the abundance of financial resources, or the lack thereof, that a community has. Just as many wealthy communities have high access to reading literacy, as we learned with Books for a Benefit, wealthy communities like Ann Arbor have additional luxuries like later school start times. Because our problem requires potential additional financial resources in low income communities, we were curious about how we could mobilize financial resources for change, which Books for a Benefit taught us. By working with local restaurants in the Ann Arbor area, we formed partnerships that allowed us to fundraise for a library build, ultimately contributing to the Ann Arbor community, as well.


Most importantly, we learned how to effectively advocate for an issue. When first approaching the issue, we often were very focused on numbers and science when talking to other important stakeholders, consultants, and friends about the benefits of later start times. We learned with Books for a Benefit that when advocating for social change, it is most important to connect with people on a social, emotional, and one-to-one level as well, and presenting connective stories to convince others to care about an issue. This has shaped an advocacy approach that we aim to carry with us when we continue to promote the idea of later start times to the state of Michigan.


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

Newsletter: High School Student Sleep Deprivation



Consultation 1: Phyllis Payne, MPH: Director of Implementation at Start School Later

We had the pleasure of speaking with Phyllis Payne, Director of Implementation at Start School Later. Start School Later is a nonprofit dedicated to, as its namesake implies, making school start times later across the nation. She challenged our thought processes and guided us in the right direction by telling us her own stories and experiences.

Key takeaways (quotes):

  • “We all want start times at 8:30, but you have to be reasonable. Ask for 8:30 - but settle for earlier if you have to. I settled for 8:10. It’s better than 7:30.”

  • “Your biggest ally is your superintendent. Once they’re on board, you are much, much more credible in this process.”

  • “People are scared of change. You might think science speaks volumes, but it’s not enough. At the end of the day, legislators are people. So be prepared with actual anecdotal stories, like ones that pull on people’s heart strings.”


In 2004, Phyllis led the movement to create later start school times for Fairfax County, Virginia, with over 120,000 students in the school system. In 2015, she was successful — all students in Fairfax had the option to make later start times for schools at 8:10.

Below is a transcript from the questions we asked Phyllis, as well as her responses:

You successfully lobbied Fairfax to make school start times later. However, this was in Virginia. How would you go about making this change in Michigan?

That’s a great question. I think the best answer I can give you is that it always comes down to people. I’m sure you’ve looked into the science of this. But the biggest thing I learned throughout this entire process is that it doesn’t matter how good the science is, because the science speaks for itself. Biologically, we know that students will benefit so, so much from later start times.

The problem is that  people are very, very resistant to change. I think, learning from my own mistakes, that the biggest thing you can do in this process is to develop strong relationships with your legislators. Don’t just present them with facts, but tell them stories of times this has worked. Talk to parents who are scared about their children’s sports teams being affected stories about sports teams in later start-time districts who won their state championships. Overall, people are people, and I’ve noticed that this process becomes very political. So just make sure to present this as something everyone can agree on — that we all care about the health of our children. Also just be realistic. We all want start times at 8:30, but you have to be reasonable. Ask for 8:30 - but settle for earlier if you have to. I settled for 8:10. It’s better than 7:30. It ultimately made makes other kids’ lives better.

How familiar are you with the School Start time movement in Michigan?

To be honest, I am pretty familiar with the movements being made. I am aware that Ann Arbor and Dearborn successfully passed movements through our Michigan chapter. I was not personally involved in them, but I know that they were extremely successful.

Do you think that your progress in Fairfax is translatable to an entire state of Michigan adopting the same policy?

It absolutely does! I think the more schools that adopt this change, the more that other schools will want to hop on board. That is literally exactly what I experienced in Virginia. There are 25 high schools in Fairfax. Once we got the first one to consider a change, the rest of them did too. What I have come to find is that once one school is on board, suddenly other schools are open to the possibility of it. It will definitely take more time though. You just have to be extremely persistent and always nice.

In our research, we found that only 51% of parents in Michigan favor later start times. What do you think the biggest source of backlash is, and how did you respond to backlash?

Great question. Every district loves to make excuses. Some districts say they’re too big for the change and some say they’re too small. But I think the most passionately opposed parents are always the ones who worry about sports. Parents love to complain about sports. They think that their students won’t be able to participate in them if some schools start later and other schools start earlier. But it’s extremely false. My kid’s high school has later start times and plays in the exact same league as schools with earlier start times.

And in response to your second question...there was so much backlash. I was even once accused of wanting to start later start times to interfere with the district’s budgeting plans. Once someone told me that for every hour of sleep a student is getting, they are losing an hour of exercise - and that is why there is obesity in the US. I have heard a range of absolutely ridiculous responses to my passion. But I always try to remind myself to be nice. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That was ultimately how I found the most success. Just remember that no matter how frustrating people can get, always be sweet and nice!

Given all the backlash you got, who was the most effective person to have on your side?

Your biggest ally is your superintendent. Once they’re on board, you are much, much more credible in this process. I was lucky to have my superintendent on board already. When you’re bringing this to the state, make sure to bring up other superintendents who believe in the cause and are willing to make this sort of change. The root of the problem is that people are scared of change. You might think science speaks volumes, but it’s not enough. At the end of the day, legislators are people. So be prepared with actual anecdotal stories, like ones that pull on people’s heart strings. And make sure to have credible people, like superintendents, on your side too.”

CONSULTATION 2: John B. Boshoven: Guidance Counselor, Community High School, Ann Arbor

Mr. Boshoven is a guidance counselor at Community High School in Ann Arbor. We spoke with him because he of his experience with the early-start time program at Community High School.

Can you tell me about the options students currently have in order to start school later at Community?

“There are 3 main alternatives that we offer to allow students to take a period off earlier in the day.

The first and most popular is giving students the option to forgo their 8th block. In a given school day, we have an 8-block day, but only 7 are required; thus, students have the option to sleep in a few days a week by only taking 7 blocks and taking their free period off in the mornings. However, students can choose to have all 8 blocks utilized, losing their option to have early start times.

The other alternative involves having students design their own ‘community resource classes’. This is a more unique approach that allows students to earn high school credit outside of the classroom. The class is arranged through the high school but would take place in the community; for example, if a student is interested in blacksmithing, they would find a community expert, have him sign a contract with the school, and get elective art credit by working on his own time with the blacksmith. Another example could be a language credit, where a mother is a native Hebrew speaker and can teach her son Hebrew at night and on weekends. The course work would be done entirely at home, but the student could still recieve language credit through the high school. This option gives students a ton of freedom to earn credit outside of class if they choose to opt-in for starting school later.

Lastly, a student can take a Community College course or even a course at the University at any time during the year to earn credit for missed class from starting school later. Again, this gives students freedom to choose exactly how they want to make up for sleeping in. They could take courses that only meet on Saturday’s or only at nights. This option is targeted more towards performance credits and non-core classes, but still frees up time during ‘regular school hours’ to allow students to utilize later start times."

Community is known for being a very progressive high school that doesn't particularly subscribe to ‘standard high school practices’. Do you think the programs you have implemented in your high school that allow students to start school later could be implemented state-wide or is it not practical?

“I think this program could be brought statewide - other Ann Arbor schools like Pioneer High School have expanded their late class option, which allows students to start class one hour later and finish one hour later as well. Administration is trying to be more conscious of research and so we are starting to see more and more programs like these pop up around the state.”

How does offering an 8th hour impact sports, clubs, and staff? Is everything pushed back to accomodate for the 8th hour?

“Everything else still starts directly after school, which obviously creates problems with the system. It isn’t perfect right now. Sports don’t want to go later and neither do clubs, they already go into the dark as is. As a result, big schools have found that not many students have taken advantage of the extra hour program. These kids are high achieving and many of them are working just to get in to the University of Michigan. They want to be involved in as many clubs and sports as possible, and unfortunately the late-class option doesn’t account for this. However, I do think it should be standard practice to at least have the option to start later in the day, and leave it up to the students to decide what they want to do.”

I agree that every school should at least have an option similar to Pioneer or, in an ideal world, similar to Community, but these changes likely bring about costs that certain schools may not be able to handle. Do you know the major costs involved in an implementing a program similar to these schools?

“Yes, cost is obviously a major issue that needs to be heavily considered. A major cost involved in bussing, which can run up to an extra hundred thousand dollars depending on the district size and starting times. The district has to say ‘we are willing to put more money towards transportation, because we can’t have any transportation issues arise for our students. Luckily for us, Ann Arbor has a great public transportation system, so students don’t always rely on school busses, which lowers our district bussing costs a bit. Ann Arbor public transportation offers discounts to our student riders and according to the latest report from the AATA (Ann Arbor Transportation Authority), the local transit bus system is at an all time high ridership, with more and more students taking the busses. I recognize that not every district has these types of luxuries, so it may take more effort to change bussing schedules to make sure students are properly accommodated.

Another change in cost can involve teacher salary, especially at Pioneer where they offer “late-classes”. Teachers may have to be paid more to work longer days, or have to rotate their schedules with other teachers to ensure they aren’t working too many hours. Union rules say teachers have only so many hours they can work, so implementing a “late-class” option may involve hiring a few more part time workers, which will create some added expenses for the district. I would say those are the two most important expenses to take into account when looking to make a change like this.”

CONSULTATION 3: Sarah Fayyad, Junior, Pioneer High School

Do you participate in your high school’s “late-class” option?


“No...I have a regular school school day starting at 1st period and ending at the normal time.”


Why don’t you opt-in for the later start time? Is it a popular option at your school?

“Surprisingly enough, most people actually don’t take the later start time. Mainly this is because of sports and club requirements that happen right after school. I play soccer and am also a member of 2 clubs that I have an officer position in, so I can’t afford to miss any meetings to take an extra class after school during the week. I think this is the case for a lot of people in our school. None of my close friends take the late-class either.”


It appears as if extracurriculars are the main reasoning behind why such few people participate in these activities? If the later start time were to work around sports and clubs, would you still opt-out of it, or would you likely participate in it?


“I think I would want to participate in it, but I don’t know that I actually would. I have friends who don’t have clubs certain days of the week, and instead of sleeping in and taking the late class, they will actually take an extra class instead, to fit more into their schedule! Everyone wants to get in to great schools here, so they try to fit in as many AP courses or electives as possible to look good for colleges. I don’t know that it is the majority of people, but many of my friends and the people I am surrounded by do this kind of stuff. So personally, at the end of the day I would probably just take another class instead of sleeping in late.”


Do you feel tired most days and sleep deprived? How many hours of sleep do you think you get per night? Is that because of school work or just the inability to go to bed?


“I’m tired all the time. I probably get 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep on a weekday. I come back from clubs and sports really tired, but I have at least 2 hours of homework and studying to do as well as volunteering at a local food pantry. By the time I have any free time to myself it’s nearly 11 PM; I will usually watch some television until 12:30-1:00 and just crash. I come to school really tired, but usually wake up mid-day, especially during soccer season when I absolutely need the energy. I think it’s definitely a problem that I don’t get enough sleep but there’s literally nothing I can do about it. I’m working really hard to get into college, so I guess at the end of the day it’s worth it.”


You seem like an extremely motivated student who wants to do as well as possible. However, sleep is one of the most important aspects of your life, yet you seem to be neglecting it. What would it take for you to consider taking the start school later option?

“I think I would take the option if everyone else did it too. I don’t like being ‘behind’ others when it comes to school. If everyone did it I would definitely be more inclined to do it as well, but right now it just doesn’t seem worth it.”


    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.

Potential Solutions:


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:

Advice from Lizzy, our Topic Coordinator assigned to our proposal, offered much advice as we drafted our proposal throughout the semester. In the early stages of our proposal, she advised that we stress the importance of getting parents on board with later school start times. She brought up questions and potential counter arguments related to parents of students that lead to the creation of one our proposed solutions. Without Lizzy's help on this, we likely would have never thought of implementing and educational initatiative to earn parents' support of later start times. More recently, Lizzy's comments on our proposed solutions helped us further develop them into more feasible options. In particular, our second solution started out too broad and difficult to follow; based on Lizzy's advice, we narrowed it down to concrete alternatives that are more practical than what we orginially pitched. 

Research process:

When we first started our research process, we were realtively lost. We didn't have much direction or a solid idea of where we wanted to take our proposal. The first step towards solidifying our proposal began when we found out how prevalent sleep deprivation among high school students was, and all of the negative side-effects that went along with it. Most of this was uncovered while compelting our media artifact. Soon after thought, we referenced a past caucus discussion about early high school start times and sleep deprivation; we read many personal experiences from members of the caucus that helped us gain a better perspective of how and why this issue exists, and how to help fix it. Next, we came across Start Schools Later, a nonprofit organization that advocates for later school starts across the country; specifically, they lead the Ann Arbor initiative to push back school start times. We evaulated their website, as well as their existing initiatives in order to get a better idea of what we wanted to include in our proposal. We contacted multiple members of the Start School Later organization, who described to us the process behind pushing back schools start times, specifically the primary obstacles behind making the change. We also contacted faculty and students at both Pioneer and Community High School, where later start times were succesfully implemented. These consultants brought about many issues we didn't previously consider, including interference with sports and clubs, indirect costs, as well as students wanting to fit in as many classes as possible. Based on our research and consulations, we formulated our potential solutions we thought would best. From there, we further developed them based on topic coordinator advice as well as questions from the general caucus. More recently, we spoke again with some of our consultants, specifically the members of the Start School Later team to get their thoughts on our solutions to make sure they were feasible. Overall, our final proposal was molded throughout the semester through the combination of online research, consultant interviews, and avice from the caucus. 

Author contributions:

Media Artifact: Research and design split evenly between both Harlan and Jon. Harlan focused on importance of sleep among high school students; Jon focused on impact of sleep deprivation specifically in Michigan, and what is being done to address it. 

Consulations: All three consultants were interviewed by both Harlan and Jon at the same time. 

Prospectus: Data gathered by Harlan and paragraphs formulated by Jon.

Solutions: Solutions were discussed heavily and written out in detail by both Harlan and Jon. Solutions 1 and 2 proposed by Jon. Solution 3 proposed by Harlan. 

Overall, both Harlan and Jon were actively involved in researching, developing, and formulating the formal proposal. 


Preambulatory clauses

WHEREAS....87% of American high school students are sleep deprived


WHEREAS....The level of sleep a person gets is in direct proportion to how they learn in a classroom setting, perform academically, perform in sports, and retain information


WHEREAS....For each hour of sleep under 6.5 hours results in a 38% increase in feeling sad, a 42% increase in contemplating suicide, a 58% incraese in suicide attempts, and a 23% increase in substance abuse


WHEREAS....Teens’ biological clocks allow them to remain awake well past 11 p.m. despite having to be at school before 7:30am


WHEREAS....Each district in Michigan shall provide at least 1,098 hours of education a year

WHEREAS....Districts of Ann Arbor and Dearborn have adopted successful adaptations to later school start times, demonstrating objective success and positive effects on academic and athletic performance

Operative clauses


1. Students in all districts across the State of Michigan may opt for a later school start time option in which their first period of school is missed

2.  Students make up the meet the legal provision of 1,098 hours as required by MCL 388.1701 by receiving alternative forms of academic credit through the following mediums:

a. Outside classes via community college, University, or online

b. Summer courses

c. Community resource classes (classes in which students connect with a member of the local community, who is a professional a specialized focus, and receives high school credit)

d. Extended school day periods

3. Additional bus routes corresponding to district's individual infrastructural needs will be added at beginning and end of school day

4.  Each school is mandated to present an education session to parents/guardians regarding the benefits of increased sleep for students


1. As evidenced by Pioneer high school, sports and other extracurricular activities are prioritized over taking a "late-class". If the majority of students aren't taking advantage of the later start time, what is the point in offering it?

2. High school is becoming increasingly competitive, as students work to get in to some of the best universities in the country. This often involves taking as many high-level classes as can be fit into a schedule. So, even if students have the option to start-school later, they forgo it to fit in more AP and Honors courses. Academic culture in high school has been shaped in a way that doesn't let students prioritize sleep. It may not be reasonable to assume high school students would put sleep ahead of academic performance even with the option of late start times.

3. Creating later school start times can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased expenses to accomodate for the vast changes. How can school districts, especially those that aren't properly funded, afford this change? Additionally, if so many students aren't properly utilizing the program, is it worth the added expense?

Costs and funding:

Busing Costs: $100,000 - $300,000 in upfront costs depending on district size, based on data from increase in transportation costs among Tennessee high schools that implemented a similar program. Additionally, the variable costs of wages must be accounted for in order to compensate bus drivers. The average bus driver wage is $15/hour, and we estimate each of the 891 school districts in Michigan to increase jobs for 1-2 drivers.


Increase in Part-Time Teachers to offer Late-Classes: $80,000 a year, based on estimates of part-time teacher salaries and anticipated number of enrolled late-class students.


Expenses will be partially offset through decrease in number of faculty coming in early; large upfront costs will be covered by district tax payers.


Potential opponents include parents who don’t support later start times as well as other resident taxpayers who don’t agree with the program. Opponents may also include teachers who teach first period and do not have the flexibility to teach after school. Their hours and salaries could therefore be cut.


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.

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Total votes: 32