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Monday, August 25, 2014

Pediatricians Group: Delay School Start Times So Teens Can Sleep

The  American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending middle schools and high schools start later so teenagers can get more sleep. (JF Sebastian/Flickr)

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending middle schools and high schools start later so teenagers can get more sleep. (JF Sebastian/Flickr)

Many studies have shown that the average adolescent doesn’t get enough sleep, and that can cause physical and mental health issues. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now recommending middle and high schools delay their class start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.

Dr. Judith Owens is a pediatrician and the lead author of the new AAP policy statement, “School Start Times for Adolescents.” She tells Here & Now’s Sacha Pfeiffer that evidence suggests early start times contribute to chronic sleep deprivation in teenagers.


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  • NPR fan

    Yes, biology and common sense says so. Major reason it isn’t done is to accommodate buses. Great system, make it efficient for the thing that contributes least to educating kids.

    • Nightshifter Who Understands

      Busses could pick up high schoolers LAST, instead of first! Not a difficult problem!

  • Lori Badseed

    At the very least could they push the A.C.T. and S.A.T. tests back a few hours? They seem to always be at 8:00 am on Saturday during the school years. Kids don’t have a chance to recover from the sleep deprivation of the school week.

    The suggestions of going to bed earlier won’t work if their circadian rhythms don’t allow them to fall asleep until 11:00 pm.

    How are they supposed to nap during the day as the doctor suggested when they are in class? Bravo to the schools who have addressed this problem!

    • Fran

      Wouldn’t that be a great place to start! No bus route excuses.

  • JP

    Having taught math and Latin for 42 years, I cannot over emphasize the importance of Dr. Owens’ research. Too often bizarre school schedules are a function of football practice! I propose that the NCAA and the NFL support Dr. Owens in her research and publicize the results.

  • Steve

    I teach at a private high school, a boarding school, where the start time for the first class of the day was changed about three years ago to 8:50. There’s been a noticeable improvement in the number of students to make it to breakfast, and less trouble with sleepy students in their morning classes. The later start time helps, but the issues of electronic devices used late at night and some other issues are still present. We have also encouraged less homework overall, but it’s challenging to balance the needs of different courses.

    • tired

      whats the name of that school???

  • it_disqus

    This is laughable. What does artificial time have to do with anything? Move the wake up time back and the go to bed time moves also. If you want to make a difference the school day should be tied to sunrise.

  • Nightshifter Who Understands

    This is a serious suggestion and should be implemented! The teens will convert their circadian rhythms back to “normal” when they are adults. If we change time across the nation and disrupt all sorts of things for something as capricious as “Daylight Savings Time”, why not do something that will help our high school children?

  • jag43

    At 70, I’m finally rich enough and old enough to follow my own circadian rhythm, but I had to spend most of my school and adult life figuring out how to deal with the deathgrip that morning people seem to have on this world. So long as school attendance is compulsory, the one accommodation that is feasible is flex time: let the early birds have their 7 am classes and leave at 3 while us night owls can do 9 to 5.

    The bus issue should be a nonstarter: if you only have to transport half the students at one time, you should need half the bus fleet.

  • Fran

    A related issue is unsupervised time at home in the afternoon. In our community many parents commute 45 minutes plus. Our teens start school at 7:17 (on the bus by 6:30) and are dropped home at approximately 2:20. From 2:20 until when parents get home from work, say 6:00 pm or later, is a lot of free time for a teen. I would love to see elementary students take the early start time because they would be in after-school care or with a sitter until parents get home. It is difficult to justify hiring a sitter for a 15 year old or older, but they may need the supervision the most. If there free time is in the morning before 9:00 am, it is a pretty fair assumption that they are home asleep and not as likely to be up to something they shouldn’t be.

    • mijan126

      You actually think a 15-year old needs supervision? You’re kidding, right? I started babysitting other people’s kids when I was 12. At 15, I was dating. A teenager doesn’t need a babysitter unless the child has an actual mental or developmental handicap.

  • ru4real

    most business begin business between 8-9am. are we to compel them to begin business at 10 or 11 because our future employed can’t rise until then? bullocks! tell your teen lights out at 10 pm and no phone, tv or computer. that is what keeps them up to all hours. parents PLEASE start taking back your GD house.

  • Ironwoman05

    Roflmao. If we didn’t dst, they would be going to sleep an hour earlier 2/3 of the time. Their biologicak clock works with the earth not a number we made up. What a joke on society that we overlook common sense and don’t see that we can’t legislate our way out of reality.

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