Pediatrician Policy Statement: Schools Should Start Later for Healthier Teens
School districts should move start times for middle and high schools to 8:30 a.m. or later, so that students can get at least 8.5 hours of sleep per night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In a policy statement published in August in Pediatrics, the organization that represents the nation’s pediatricians said later school start times would benefit adolescents’ health, safety, and academic performance. The evidence strongly implicates early school start times as a contributor to insufficient sleep in these teens, who need an optimum 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night (Adolescent Sleep Working Group; Committee on Adolescence; Council on School Health; Pediatrics 2014;134(3):642–649).
A National Sleep Foundation poll found 87% of high school students in the US were getting less than the recommended amount of sleep on school nights, with high school seniors averaging less than seven hours. Studies have found that a lack of sleep in teens increases the risk of traffic accidents and makes them more vulnerable to depression and obesity. Teens who get more sleep also do better academically.
It’s not just a question of kids getting to bed early. Biology plays a role, so the average teen has difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m., according to the policy statement. Napping, trying to catch up on sleep on the weekends, and caffeine consumption can temporarily counteract sleepiness, but aren’t a substitute for regular, sufficient sleep. Physicians should make adolescents aware of the need for optimal sleep and encourage parents to get involved in setting bedtimes and supervising activities such as social networking and electronic media use in their kids’ bedrooms, the group said.
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