Smart Woman: How School Start Times Affect Student Sleep

By Brittany Pelletz |

Published 08/25 2014 04:06PM

Updated 10/16 2014 08:53PM

With schools beginning their fall semesters, Matthew Rose, a high school sophomore, will need to wake up before dawn to make his first class at 7:25 a.m.

"Usually during my first period I feel like I can't take notes.. I'm definitely less focused in the morning," Rose said.

Early school start times are sounding an alarm for the nation's leading pediatricians. The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending students in middle school and high school start their day at 8:30 a.m. or later.

According to Dr. Judith Owens, Children's National Medical Center, "the average adolescent is not getting the 8 and a half to 9 and a half hours of sleep they typically need."

Studies show that lack of sleep in teens can lead to poor grades, obesity, depression and drowsiness caused driving accidents.

More than 40% of the nation's public high schools begin before 8:00 a.m. Only 15% start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

"There is now a solid body of evidence that delaying school start times at both the middle and high school level reverse a lot of the negative consequences," Dr. Owens said.
Rose claims that between playing sports and studying, it's hard to get to bed early. He thinks a later school start would help him perform better.

"It would help things out, I think I would be more focused," Rose said.

Pediatricians say families need to make sleep a health priority just like good diet and exercise. 

Additionally, it's key for teens to avoid electronics before bed because the lights from screens can suppress the hormone melatonin which helps a person fall asleep.

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