Middle and high school should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in a position statement. Doctors say that starting school earlier in the morning prevents children and teenagers from getting a full night’s sleep, which can affect their health, safety and academic performance.
The argument for a later school day isn’t new, but this was the first time the AASM—a group of scientists and health experts with more than 10,000 members—has taken an official position on the subject. For years, studies have suggested that later school starts can benefit adolescents and teens, who scientists say are wired to stay up late and sleep in.
The statement, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, follows similar recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It asserts that if middle- and high-school students are allowed to wake up later in the morning, they’ll be more focused during the day, more alert behind the wheel and less likely to be late to (or absent from) school.
The AASM recommends that teenagers should sleep 8 to 10 hours a night. But according to the CDC, almost 70% of high-school students report sleeping 7 hours or less on a regular basis.
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That’s partially because as children approach and go through puberty, their brains begin producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin on a delayed schedule, making it difficult for them to feel tired before 11 p.m. Because it’s normal to spend some time in bed before falling asleep, the authors write, “a teenager who goes to bed at 11 p.m. would need to sleep until 7:30 a.m. or later in order to obtain sufficient sleep.”
MORE: School Should Start Later So Teens Can Sleep, Urge Doctors
But because many schools start before 8 a.m., those students are falling short of those sleep targets. That can have serious consequences. Chronic sleep loss among teenagers has been associated with poor school performance and a higher risk for depressive symptoms, obesity, cardiovascular problems, risk-taking behaviors and athletic injuries, to name a few.
Research also suggests that delaying the start of the school day can reduce automobile accidents caused by sleepy teen drivers. In one 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, crash rates fell by 16.5% in the two years after a school district shifted its start times an hour later, compared to the two years before.
School districts have begun to take note, and some have delayed their start times. (Seattle Public Schools started a new delayed-start schedule in September.) It’s not always an easy switch, however; schools must sometimes rejigger bus schedules, after-school activities and sports programs.
Dr. Nathaniel Watson, lead author of the AASM statement and associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington, says that so far, successful changes have been the result of parents, physician groups and concerned citizens raising the issue at school board meetings. “I think if it’s done in a thoughtful manner with all of the stakeholders involved, many of the issues that people are concerned about can be addressed,” says Watson. “We all want the same thing: healthy, vibrant, educated children who have every opportunity possible to succeed in this world.”
The AASM statement also acknowledges that shifting school start times won’t solve all of teenagers’ sleep problems. Parents should also encourage a regular sleep-wake schedule, and children should avoid sleep-disrupting electronic devices before bed or during the night.
MORE: TV and Video Games at Night May Cause Sleep Problems in Kids
Instituting a school-wide schedule change would be a good start, says Watson, and it may even motivate kids and parents to prioritize sleep and develop better sleep habits overall.
“This change provides an opportunity for healthy sleep for teenage students, but it’s up to the student and their families to take advantage of it,” he says. “If the system can make these accommodations and set a good example, maybe it will stimulate an internal dialogue for these students about the importance of sleep, and really help them make these other changes as well.”
Later School Start Times Essay
Later School Start Times
Everyone has always hated getting up super early to go to school. As children get older they move to different schools, from elementary to middle to high school, and the start times get earlier. In elementary school it was never a problem getting up but getting older, it always got harder to get up and the days were always longer. Schools start so early in the morning that it is hard to focus and students tend to miss more of their earlier classes and attend all of their later classes. Schools everywhere should start later because it would benefit the students and teachers.
All children need sleep and want sleep during the weekdays and that is very difficult. It has been noticed that older students and younger students, such as third graders and eleventh graders, sleep patterns are very different. In many places it is the same way that middle schools and high school start earlier than elementary schools. The problem is that adolescents stay up at least two and a half hours later than younger children do (Bergin 2). Older kids stay up for various reasons and younger children can fall asleep easier and earlier than high school students. Kids from elementary school all the way to high school tend to get up at relatively the same time but as stated before older kids go to sleep later than younger children. Ages 3-17 children tend to get up at the same time which is 7 a.m. (Bergin 1). The sleep patterns differ between high school students and elementary students but they are also very different between students and teachers.
Students and teachers both have issues with school hours and both of their sleep patterns are negatively influenced by the morning shift. Even though they are at school around the same time, their sleep patterns are different. Students and teachers get up earlier on the weekdays. Students get up around 6:09 and teachers wake around 5:56 (De Souza 4). Adolescents and adults need around 9 hours of sleep daily (De Souza 5). Since schools are starting so early, they can not get the needed sleep time, eight to nine hours. Even though teachers go to school the same time as students, consequences are worse in students and it seems to have more of a critical effect on students. No matter if it is a student or a teacher, the quality of sleep is very important for everybody.
Students need a good amount of sleep to be able to focus and get through the school day. Students ability to function during school is impacted by the quantity, regularity, and quality if their sleep (Wolfson 1). The quality of sleep is not only important for the students but it is also important for the teachers. The quality of sleep affects the way students and teachers act throughout the day. Daytime sleepiness and poor sleep quality on school days in students and teachers may comprise school and work performance (De Souza 5). Since students and teachers stay up so late at night, they tend to be very tired during the day. It is important to...
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