School Start Times: Sleep Doctors Say HS Kids Avoid Accidents, Depression With Later School Time

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 20, 04:00 am
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Sleep doctors say school start times is a national health issue. It affects teenagers' well-being.
(Photo : Daniel Munoz/Getty Images)

Sleep doctors are joining the debate on school start times. Members of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) say high school kids avoid accidents and depression when classes begin later in the morning.

The group recommended school start times shouldn't be earlier than 8:30 a.m. They said kids between 13 to 18-years-old should at least have 8 to 10 hours of sleep time during school week as puberty caused a body clock shift.

Teens are biologically prone to sleep later at night due to the adolescents' circadian clock, as per Reuters. Schools need to consider this to help lessen sleep loss in teenagers.

"Chronic sleep loss among teens is associated with a host of problems," AASM's Dr. Nathaniel Watson wrote in their paper on the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. He cited some of these problem as "poor school performance, increased depressive symptoms and motor vehicle accidents."

Good sleep encourage kids to stay alert in classes, on their activities and while the road, especially since driving is common among teenagers. Unfortunately, 35 percent of teen deaths are due to car accidents Experts say these accidents could drop to 16 percent when schools adopt a late school start time.

An analysis from 2015 stated 83 percent of American middle and high schools start before 8:30 a.m., USA Today reported. Some parents preferred the early time because it means their kids also go home earlier even with after-school practices or activities.

Some schools, on the other hand, also prefer an early school start time because it's logistically feasible to manage bus schedules. Most schools are already cash-strapped and a late school start time would mean additional cost on resources and manpower.

The AASM members, however, insist this is already a national health issue and it's the youth who suffer most. "The nation's leading organization for sleep professionals has added its voice to that of other health advocacy groups such as the AMA, AAP, AACAP, CDC and American Psychological Association in support of healthy school start times for middle and high school students," according to Dr. Judith Owens in the Reuters report.

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