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Delay School Start Times

Doctors Push For Later School Start Times

Teens aren't the only ones who want a little extra sleep. New research from the American Academy of Pediatrics says high schools and middle schools need to push their start time to 8:30 a.m. or later. With 45 percent of teens getting less than eight hours of sleep each night — the optimal amount for their age group — members of the AAP think a delayed start time is necessary to prevent "a public health crisis."

"As adolescents go up in grade, they're less likely with each passing year to get anything resembling sufficient sleep," Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center and lead author of the AAP statement, says. According to Owens and her fellow authors, insufficient sleep can lead to:

  • Increased risk for obesity, stroke, and type 2 diabetes; higher rates of automobile accidents; and lower levels of physical activity.
  • Increased risk for anxiety and depression; increased risk-taking behaviors; impaired interpretation of social/emotional cues, decreased motivation and increased vulnerability to stress.
  • Lower academic achievement, poor school attendance; increased dropout rates; and impairments in attention, memory, organization, and time management.

Despite the medical evidence, school officials say changing the start time is not something that can happen overnight. They add that doing so would affect transportation arrangements to and from school and participation in after-school activities, such as athletics and employment. Still, Owens says this is the only way to help our teens succeed.

"The bottom line is if school starts at 7:20 there is no way for the average adolescent to get the 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep they need."

Image Source: Shutterstock
Join The Conversation
bjoslyn bjoslyn 3 years

No, it's not rocket science. It's actually biology. And I think I'm gonna listen to experts in this one, since you don't seem to be one. But you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But just remember what the say about opinions...

bjoslyn bjoslyn 3 years

I did research on this topic many years ago and in the studies that I read it was discovered that the reason that teens go to bed later is that their internal clock is set later! If an adult is naturally set to go to bed around 9pm naturally, then a teen is set to more like 10pm. A child is more similar to an adults internal clock. Teens really are just on a different setting! And 'going to bed earlier' just doesn't cut it for this situation! Also, I personally find it rediculous that school officials are more concerned with the after school activities than the health of our teens!! The after school stuff is EXTRA! It should not be ANYTHING that should be part of making a decision like this!

KristiGreen69922 KristiGreen69922 3 years

My son will be starting 8th grade this year his start time is 7:50am and my daughter will be going to 1st grade and they start at 9:00am. Both my kids are in bed no later then 10pm, I have tried earlier but that will never happen. But they do get at least 8 to 9 hours sleep and I never have any problems in school. I feel if they go in later, one my daughter will not get home til after 4:40, after school programs my son attends will get cut, because school buses will be still taking students home. For my township I feel our start times are fine.

Michelle15499717 Michelle15499717 3 years

True, but elementary kids as young as 4 starting at 7:15 in the morning is truly ridiculous...and creates just as big a child care connundrum on the other side of the's a double edged sword!

Michelle15499717 Michelle15499717 3 years

There is some truth there, too many electronic distractions, but also on the flip side, if they are involved in after school activities or school sanctioned sports, by the time practice and dinner are over with, they often have hours and hours of homework to tend to. The amount given today is ridiculous....some middle schools giving homework that will virtually take all evening to do.

Michelle15499717 Michelle15499717 3 years

I know this article focuses on middle school and high school...but our elementary kids start around 7:15 am here, which is very difficult. They are also done with school by 2:05 pm....making child care just as difficult on the other end. Kids in that age group need 10-11 hours of sleep, and that is very difficult to achieve when you are working around busses and things that will pick them up at 6:30 in the morning, especially with the ever increasing amounts of homework and things that are given to even early elementary kids! My daughter is switching to a private school this year and will not start until 9:15...and will go until 4:15 in the afternoon....I'm looking forward to the change, because if left to her own body rythms, she usually wakes around 7-7:30, which will be perfect.

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