Can Starting School Later Improve Teen Health?

Can Starting School Later Improve Teen Health?

Asleep in Class – BK9157

The American Academy of Pediatrics seems to think so, and recently published their policy statement for school districts to adopt later start times for middle and high schools in order for students to get at least 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep per night.  The nation’s pediatricians have identified that starting classes before 8:30 a.m. becomes problematic for children when their sleep-wake cycle shifts two hours ahead as they become teenagers.  The resulting shift means that melatonin secretion (the body’s sleep hormone) is delayed, as well as the brain’s “sleep drive,” which causes adolescents to fall asleep more slowly after staying awake for 16-18 hours.  As a result, these physiological changes can prevent the average teen from falling asleep before 11:00 p.m., and make it even harder for them to wake up during the middle of their sleep cycle the next morning.

Of course these findings come with their fair share of controversy, such as how much modern technology affects nocturnal activity, as well as extra curricular activities, after-school jobs, homework, and social lives.  Regardless, researchers found that 87% of high school students get insufficient sleep, putting them at risk of diseases associated with chronic sleep deprivation including:  obesity, hypertension, anxiety, depression, poor impulse control, metabolic dysfunction, and impaired memory.

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