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High and Middle School Start Times Should Be Later

Does the School Day Start Too Early For Teenagers?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging middle and high schools to start their days later because teenagers are biologically programmed to wake up closer to 8 a.m., a time in which most schools have already had the kids learning for close to an hour.

The government recommends a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later, but change is hard for districts due to bus schedules, after-school sports and activities, and for older students, work schedules. However, some school districts have made the change and are already seeing very positive results.

In Fairfax, VA, the school start time was pushed to 8:10 a.m. from 7:20 a.m., which in turn pushed the end time back 50 minutes, and parents say having that extra hour in the morning is important. Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington says:

"Around the time that teenagers go into puberty, there are changes in what's called the circadian rhythm. And that is the body's time clock that regulates sleep and wake patterns. And so at around the beginning of adolescence, there is a natural delay in fall-asleep time and wake time . . . However, they also need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep per night so if you do the math, they are biologically programmed to fall asleep at 11 and wake at around 8 a.m. And that's a time when they're already in first period class."

So while studies show that a later start time would be beneficial for teenagers, 82 percent of public high and middle schools in the United States have an average start time of 8:03 a.m. Parents of teens — what do you think?

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