Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Should High Schools Start Later in the Day?

Benjamin Franklin said early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise, however “early to bed” is not always a possibility for teenagers.

Most high schools in the DC area start classes around 7:30 am, while most teenagers fall asleep around 11 pm, this lack of sleep could be harmful to adolescents’ health. Children’s Director of Sleep Medicine Judith Owens, MD, talked about the dangers of teens sleeping less today on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

“Around the time of puberty there is a shift in a teenager’s circadian rhythms,” Dr. Owens explained to Kojo Nnamdi. “The average teen moves [to a bedtime of] two hours later. At the same time, sleep needs do not change. So they need 9 to 9.25 hours of sleep.”

So, if a teen needs about 9 hours of sleep and goes to bed at 11 pm on average, they should wake up at 8 am, when most high school students are well into their first period.

Dr. Owens first became interested in later school arrival times after she was involved in a study at her own daughter’s school. The school conducted an experiment to measure the impact of shifting the arrival from 8 am to 8:30 am. That half hour difference increased student satisfaction, gave kids an extra 45 minutes of sleep, and students were less likely to fall asleep in class or while doing homework. No one wanted to return to the 8 am schedule.

Less sleep negatively impacts teens’ grades and increases tardiness, according to Dr. Owens. She explained that there are several health hazards, including drowsy driving, which can lead to an increase in car accidents.

“Sleep deprivation is also associated with an increase in depression, problems regulating mood, and suicidal thoughts,” Dr. Owens said. “Students who use caffeine and other stimulants to curb drowsiness are at risk of illicit stimulants later in life.”

So, the solution is to let teens sleep in later on weekends?


Dr. Owens said you should not let your teenager to sleep later on weekends because this further disrupts the circadian rhythm and leaves the teen in a constant state of jetlag. Instead, encourage teens teen to wake up earlier on weekends to help regulate sleep.

Do you think high schools should start later?

1 comment:

Nick Widdecombe said...

I think school should stay the same. My school starts at 7:30 I live with my dad and his girlfriend has 3 kids. The older one and I both have to get up and take a shower so no matter what if the time changes we both would still have to wake up. I wake up every morning at 5:45 even weekends I sleep till about 8:00. Teenagers stay up late no matter what so if the time did change to something earlier then teens would stay up more. A lot of teens play call of duty so they would stay up longer with that so really if they would get less sleep either way. Teens need time after school to either work or get a job if school started later they would have less time to work or get a job. So I think time should not change.

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