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Later school start times for students

Filed in
  • Teens
  • School Start Times
  • Pediatrics

Corinne Lederhouse  |  Apr 20, 2017
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Middle and high school students have to balance academics, sports, social lives, and additional extracurricular activities. Keeping up with these responsibilities leaves minimal time for relaxing, let alone getting a good night’s sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recently released a position statement regarding school start times for middle and high-schoolers. The verdict? The school day should begin at 8:30 a.m. or later.

Research shows that later start times give kids the chance to get enough sleep on school nights. A later start time has a ton of benefits for students, including:

  • Optimized daytime alertness
  • Reduced tardiness
  • Improved school attendance
  • Increased engagement in class
  • Longer total sleep time
  • Reduced daytime sleepiness
  • Reduced depressive symptoms and irritability
  • Improved reaction time
The AASM recommends that teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours on a regular basis to stay healthy. But the majority of high school students report sleeping 7 hours or less on school nights.

Most teens have a biological preference for a late-night bedtime. This is due to a shift in the timing of the body’s internal clock during puberty. Early middle school and high school start times work against this, and cut short the sleep that students could be getting.

Short sleep in adolescents is associated with the following:
  • Poor school performance
  • Obesity
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Athletic injuries
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
Combined with good sleep habits, a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later helps students to perform their best in class and sports. A later school start time also supports better mental health, and safer driving.