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Pediatricians push for later school start times for teens for health, safety

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The American Academy of Pediatricians is calling for a later school starting time for teens, citing the link between a lack of sleep and poor health and car crashes, not to mention bad grades and a few other issues. According to CBS News on Aug. 25, the pediatricians think teens shouldn’t start school before 8:30 a.m.

The group of doctors says teens are at special risk. Lack of sleep has become chronic and a way of life for teens. They should be getting 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep from the time they enter middle school through their high school careers. Studies indicate most get less than 7 hours per night.

Over 40% of the high schools in America have a pre-8 a.m. start time. For those who ride the school bus to school, they are often forced to rise before dawn to catch their rides. At issue is the cost of the bus runs. Many school bus companies use a single bus and driver to make multiple runs, typically splitting the runs between the older and younger kids. In order for the kids to be able to start later, the bus companies would need to add more buses and drivers to their budgets. The school districts that do have later start times tend to be smaller ones according to Kristen Amundsen, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

“The evidence is clearly mounting both in terms of understanding the repercussions that chronic sleep loss has on the health, safety and performance of adolescents, and there is also really solid compelling data supporting the fact that delaying school start times is a very important intervention that can mitigate some of the impact of sleep loss,” says Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center and lead author of the report.

The report was published on Monday in the ‘Pediatrics’ journal according to Time. It cited such possible consequences as obesity, diabetes, behavior problems and mood changes from a lack of sufficient sleep for teens. The policy said studies indicate delayed start times could provide more time for sleep which could translate into better classroom participation and enhanced mood.

Additionally, later start times would also mean later dismissal times. This is often cited as a problem because it would impact after school practices and games. It could also cut into time available for after school jobs and homework.

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