A new bill was introduced this week that would require New Jersey high schools start no earlier than 8:30 am. The proposal comes as there is growing concern about what some call a mental health crisis among teens that could potentially be alleviated with more adequate sleep.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, and state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth introduced Bill A3816, which if approved, would go into effect for the 2024-25 school years but would not apply to elementary or middle schools. Right now, the average start time for high school in NJ is 7:51 am, compared with the national average of 8 am.

A later start time for high schools has been a hotly-debated issue in NJ for years. Now, as many parents see their teens struggling post-COVID, the idea of nurturing kids’ mental health has taken center stage. Depression, anxiety and even suicide among teens is being looked at from a new point of view, and many believe that getting adequate sleep can improve outcomes.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teens’ biological sleep rhythms tend to differ from younger kids–they tend to stay up later and want to sleep in, and it’s not just because they’re on their phones and computers.

But those who are opposed to the idea say that later start times for high schools will interfere with extra-curricular activities, such as sports, and cause problems with busing and parents’ work schedules.

Gov. Phil Murphy said that he would support the bill.

“There’s a fair amount of research that suggests it’s a better way to go to start later,” Murphy told Politico. “I’m absolutely open-minded to that.”

How much sleep should your child be getting? Click here to find out! Do you agreee with starting school later? Tell us in the comments.

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