Teens Need Later Start to School Day, Doctors Group Says

Photo credit:Wall Street Journal

Is your teenager sleep deprived during the school year, because classes start too early? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now weighing in on the issue of school start times for teens. The AAP believes 8:30 a.m. or later is best for middle and high school students.

Judith Owen, lead author for the AAP policy statement says “probably the ideal start time would be 9 am,” and she goes on to explain why: “We know that the average adolescent is really challenged to fall asleep much before 11 p.m. because of changes in circadian biology. We also know average adolescents need between 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 hours of sleep. So they are probably best suited to wake up at 8 in the morning.

But the reality is that most school districts in the U.S. are not taking this into account when setting school schedules. The majority of public high schools start before 8:30 a.m. An early start may work better for bus transportation, athletic programs in the afternoon or a parents schedule in the morning, but studies cited by the AAP show that students do better academically and healthwise when beginning their day even 25 minutes later. And another added benefit: fewer car accidents and sports related injuries are reported.

Terra Zyporyn Snider is co-director of Start School Later, which works to bring attention to the health consequences of early school start times. In a commentary on the CNN website, she quotes Cornell University professor and sleep expert James Maas: “Almost all teenagers, as they reach puberty, become walking zombies, because they are getting far too little sleep.”

Would you like to see more schools change to later start times for teens? Share your thoughts with us.

The Wall Street Journal, 8/25/14

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