Despite the facts, sleep is still viewed as a luxury or a sign of laziness rather than being akin to potable water and nutrition— the basic public health necessity that it truly is. While there has been some progress, there is still a long way to go to elevate the importance of sleep in both policy and practice. In the 1990’s, smoking bans seemed novel, but now smoke free public spaces are normal. That process required a slow but steady effort to change the public’s attitude. Likewise, attitudes about sleep must be transformed through education and public policies that encourage healthy sleep.
But to make real headway in rationalizing our nation’s attitude toward sleep, we need to start with our kids. Let’s not continue to subject them to the insidiously destructive structure of ridiculously early school start times. It is time to think creatively about providing the necessary hours of sleep to our kids, to provide them with immediate benefits and to engender healthy sleep habits for adulthood.