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Strong scientific evidence shows that adolescents need to start class later

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It appears that middle and high schoolers who complain and stall at waking up early for school may actually know what is best. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strong scientific evidence that proves that the youngsters need more sleep in order for them to work at their highest mental and physical capacity. The study shows that starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later will keep the adolescents healthy and improve their scholastic performance.

“The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” Dr. Owens, a sleep specialist, said Monday in a press release by AAP.

No there isn’t a teen lobby group, although it’s safe to state that most adolescents won’t object to starting classes later. Some parents and school officials say a schedule overhaul will cause a lot of rearranging for things like after school extracurricular activities, child care, or for students who have job commitments after school. However, studies show more than 50 percent of 6th grade through 8th grade kids are not getting the recommended hours of sleep (8.5 to 9.5), and the percentage rises to almost 90 percent for high schoolers. Experts are hoping these studies will be discussed at school boards and committees, because they say doing nothing will bring harm upon the youths’ health.

Alice Park, contributor for Time Magazine, wrote that “some schools, for example, have created after-school programs where younger children can remain at school in a supervised setting until their older siblings or parents can take them home.” Experts agree. Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., was led by Dr. Owens, and acknowledges that schools will endure some challenges if they move to later start times, but believes if communities can work through those hurdles their community will have a substantial boost in their overall health -- physically and mentally.

One of the key findings demonstrates that when teens are going through their puberty stages their sleep patterns shift, making it difficult for the teenagers to get to bed before 11 p.m., Owens said. Now school administrators who have the authority to make such changes can use the policy statement published Aug. 25 to start the conversation about starting class times later for adolescents based on scientific proof; not just the constant tardy records and complaints from teens.

In efforts to assert the benefits of starting class time later for middle and high schoolers, the study also includes an updated technical report, “Insufficient Sleep in Adolescent and Young Adults,” according to the AAP press release.

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