Stevie Rudak | September 19, 2023

Professor Calls for Later Start to School Day

Research shows that proper rest benefits mental and physical health outcomes among adolescents.

Laurel McNall headshot

Many people believe the school day starts as soon as the bell rings for class to begin. However, Psychology Professor, Dr. Laurel McNall, emphasizes it actually begins the moment your alarm clock goes off. Even prior to this, the school bus driver must have already arrived well-rested for their shift, while teachers must have finalized their lesson plans for the day ahead.

Drawing inspiration from her own family’s weekly morning routine, and the thoughts of others, McNall gained firsthand experience of the unavoidable conflicts that arise when her children transitioned from elementary school to middle school.

“I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my daughter as she went from elementary school to middle school with having to wake up earlier,” McNall said. “In addition to this change, I understand what the literature says about puberty, the importance of proper rest, and the impact of sleep on adolescents.”

McNall has expressed her support for delaying school start times through several op-ed publications featured within the Democrat and Chronicle and Albany Times Union, where she collaborated with Psychology Professor and sleep expert Dr. Jack Peltz.

“I want to model for my kids and students that when you see a policy you don’t think is beneficial, you can do something about it.”
Laurel McNall

“I want to model for my kids and students that when you see a policy you don’t think is beneficial, you can do something about it,” McNall said.

Actively partnering with Start School Later, a national group of health professionals, sleep scientists, educators, parents, students, and other concerned citizens, McNall hopes to increase public awareness about the relationship between sleep and school hours.

“I’m learning the process of how our state creates laws and policies,” McNall said. “This is something I’ve never done before and I encourage others to voice their community concerns by signing petitions online, calling your state senator, or talking with stakeholders.”

Through this collaboration, McNall bands together with individuals who lead efforts in New York State. Their goal is for legislation to pass a state-wide law allowing for later school state times, instead of this effort staying district-by-district.

“Nothing good comes from sleep deprivation and this is an important guard rail to potential mental health issues that we could put in place,” McNall said. “But we don’t have it right now.”

McNall’s advocacy for sleep even extends beyond elementary school, middle school, and high school ages.

“I encourage my own students to prioritize their sleep and incorporate better sleep hygiene practices in their routines,” McNall said. “Practices include making sure your electronic devices are out of the bedroom one hour before bedtime, allowing your bed to only be for sleep, avoiding caffeine, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.”