Good news for teenagers: doctors want you to sleep in during the week.
A new recommendation released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages middle and high schools to push start times back, in order to align students’ academic schedules with their biological sleep rhythms.
The organization says schools should start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Nationally, only 15 percent of high schools currently follow that guideline. 40 percent start classes before 8:00 a.m.
Ideally, researchers say, teenagers should get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Recent polls indicate that only 41 percent of middle school students and 13 percent of high schoolers do.
“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common and easily fixable public health issues in the U.S. today,” said pediatrician Judith Owens, who wrote the policy statement. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”
Owens and her fellow researchers argue that allowing for more sleep will increase student academic performance in class and standardized tests, as well as reduce their risk of depression or obesity.
Dr. Vaughn Rickert, professor of adolescent medicine with the IU School of Medicine says teenagers especially thrive from getting extra sleep because they’re at a point in their lives when the brain develops at an incredible rate.
“Clearly kids who are deprived of sleep are not going to be coping with stress, and certainly they’re going to be at risk for other [things],” such as depression, anxiety, and psychiatric disorders, Rickert says.
“There’s really no reason not to have later school start dates except many people who are working on the other side of the classroom are not particularly thrilled about starting later,” Rickert adds. “It disrupts their day.”
Some schools in Indiana adhere to later start times – whether regular or just on specific days. Monroe County Community Schools start late only on Wednesdays, with middle and high school classes beginning at 8:25 a.m., as opposed to 7:40 a.m. the rest of the week.
After high school teachers at Noblesville Schools expressed concern about drowsy students during morning classes, administrators decided they will implement later start times in the 2015-16 school year every day of the week.
“Schools have historically organized their schedules around the needs of parents and not necessarily what’s best for students,” district officials said in a statement released in response to the AAP recommendation. “While this adjustment may be challenging for some of our parents in the short term, we are confident it is the right decision to support student needs.”
Noblesville Schools officials say they are still finalizing details of the schedule change, and intend to confirm their new start times in early 2015.