On Friday, May 12, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law bipartisan legislation (HB 733) that requires the instructional school day to begin no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools in the state beginning in 2026. Florida is the second state, after California (SB 328), to mandate later school start times statewide.
It is the position of the AASM that middle and high school start times should be at 8:30 am or later to promote teen health, safety, and academic performance. Rafael Pelayo, MD, sleep specialist and AASM member, represented the National Sleep Foundation with an invited presentation to the Florida legislature on adolescent sleep health and the importance of school start times prior to their vote on the bill.
“How can we continue to blame adolescents and their parents for being sleep deprived when the educational system in itself is part of the problem by having biologically inappropriate schedules for these young people?” Dr. Pelayo said. “Forcing them to wake up too early is specifically depriving them of REM sleep. We tell them we want them to follow their dreams but take away their best time to actually dream. That this impacts their mental and overall health is undeniable. I am grateful Florida has acted so swiftly on this public health issue and look forward to more states creating similar laws; indeed, a national solution would be ideal for the sleep health of one of our most vulnerable and important populations for the future of our society.”
The Florida legislature voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill — 92-20 in the House and 38-2 in the Senate — before being swiftly signed by Gov. DeSantis. AASM’s online campaign generated 32 messages sent from members and other advocates to the legislature and governor in support of the bill, and the AASM sent a letter of support to Gov. DeSantis prior to his approval of the legislation.
“Teen students in Florida deserve the opportunity to start each day awake, alert, and ready to learn,” wrote AASM President Jennifer Martin, PhD.
Later school start times are pivotal to the overall health of teens. A natural shift in the body’s circadian rhythm, or “internal clock,” occurs in puberty, causing most teems to experience a natural drive for later sleep times. This biological change makes it difficult for many teens to get sufficient sleep on school nights, especially when early school start times requires students to wake without getting the 8 to 10 hours of sleep that the AASM recommends for teenagers. Later school start times are associated with longer weekday sleep durations, less daytime sleepiness, and reduced motor vehicle accident rates.
The AASM applauds Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, the Florida legislature, and the governor for enacting this law that will improve student health and safety across the state. The AASM also appreciates the involvement of key stakeholders who continue to advocate for later school start times, including Start School Later, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Sleep Foundation, and AASM members in Florida.