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Teen sleep: Should school start times be delayed?

With the summer winding down, back to school schedules are just around the corner for kids everywhere.

When it comes to getting back into the swing of things, teens may have no choice but to burn the midnight oil. That's why The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says school days should start later. The AAP today recommended middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later.

The biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, aren't ready to hit the hay until at least 11pm according to the AAP. Homework, jobs, sports and technology distractions may all be additional factors that delay sleep. Fifty-nine percent of 6th through 8th graders and eighty seven percent of high school students were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights, according to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll.

“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “School Start Times for Adolescents,” published in the new September issue of Pediatrics.

“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 said. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”

For More Information:

The Mayo Clinic Tween and Teen Sleep Health

Rhode Island, Lifespan - Teen Sleep