Recognizing that insufficient sleep among teens is an “important public health issue,” the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging school districts across the country to consider starting classes at 8:30 a.m.—or even later—for older students.
In its first-ever policy statement on school start times, released in August, the AAP says that lack of sleep can significantly affect the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of teenagers.
“Although a number of factors, including biological changes in sleep associated with puberty, lifestyle choices, and academic demands, negatively affect middle and high school students’ ability to obtain sufficient sleep, the evidence strongly implicates earlier school start times (before 8:30 a.m.) as a key modifiable contributor to insufficient sleep, as well as circadian rhythm disruption, in this population,” the statement says.
The recommended optimal amount of sleep for teens is between 81/2 and 91/2 hours a night.
A mounting body of research demonstrates that later start times are an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss, the AAP says, but only about 15% of public high schools across the country start classes at 8:30 a.m. or later.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a growing number of schools are studying the costs and logistics of starting classes later for teens, including districts in Seattle, Washington, and Fairfax County, Virginia.
The AAP cited numerous studies that have found delaying the start of classes by as little as 25 minutes results in improved health, a decrease in driving accidents and, in some cases, improved student academic performance.