Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Doctors: Let Students Sleep To See Better Performance

Good news for teenagers: doctors want you to sleep in during the week.

A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests middle and high schools delay the start of their day so students get the right amount of sleep.

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A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests middle and high schools delay the start of their day so students get the right amount of sleep.

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.


  • Jorfer88

    Don’t know if it is still the case, but when I was at Marion High School, they started at 9:00 AM every day. I liked it, and thought it helped, though there were teachers annoyed at getting out at 4:00 PM.

  • Monica Gow

    Sufficient sleep has never been more vital to academic
    success for middle- and high-school students, as the American Academy of
    Pediatrics (AAP) recently declared in calling for later school start times. We
    applaud the AAP’s recommendation. Further, the AAP reports that sleep
    deprivation in teens has never been more widespread, likening the sleepiness
    experienced by the average American teenager to that of people with narcolepsy
    and other sleep disorders.

    True, most sleepy students are “simply” sleep deprived, but
    chronic, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness may indeed be a warning sign of
    narcolepsy. This lifelong disease, though incurable, is treatable, so diagnosis
    is critical.

    Teachers are often among the first to notice the symptoms of
    the disorder, but they need to know the warning signs and triggers that can
    lead to sleep attacks and other symptoms, such as cataplexy, which is the loss
    of muscle control or complete collapse. Cataplexy is usually brought on by
    laughter, surprise, or other strong emotions. And students with narcolepsy
    usually struggle with studying,
    focusing, and remembering things. By recognizing the symptoms, teachers
    can refer these students for further evaluation, and possible diagnosis and

    Still other symptoms, which can be equally debilitating,
    include sleep paralysis and vivid
    and often terrifying dreams that can be confused with reality. Automatic behavior
    is one more troubling symptom. For example, if you’re writing before falling asleep, you
    may scribble rather than form words. Most people who have this symptom don’t
    remember what happened while it was going on.

    Unlike in most of America, schools in many of our peer
    nations, such as Australia, Canada, England, Germany, and Norway, generally start
    between 8:10 and 9:00 AM, nearly an hour later than the vast majority of their American

    Later start times would benefit all middle- and high-school
    students, including kids with narcolepsy, as the disease normally causes poor
    sleep at night, ironically, even with proper medical treatment. Every extra
    minute of nighttime sleep is critical to their daytime quality of life and
    academic potential.

    Monica Gow
    Executive Director and Co-founder
    Wake Up Narcolepsy

  • Ken Pimple

    As long as Indiana is on Eastern time, the start time should actually be 9:30 am.

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