School days should start later, especially for teens. That’s the word from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) who say middle school and high school students would benefit from a day that begins no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Their research shows that later start times would let teenagers get sufficient sleep on school nights. This, in turn, would make them more alert, less likely to be late for school, and improve school attendance overall. It would also make them less depressed and decrease the possibility of motor vehicle accidents.
“Starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later gives teens a better opportunity to get the sufficient sleep they need to learn and function at their highest level.”
AASM Past President Dr. Nathaniel Watson
How much sleep is enough?
The AASM recommends that teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours a night on a regular basis. More than half of high school students say they sleep 7 hours or less on school nights, resulting in chronic sleep loss.
Studies show that too little sleep is associated with some or all of the following:
- Poor school performance
- Metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular morbidity
- Increased depressive symptoms
- Suicidal ideation
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Athletic injuries
Not enough sleep can also contribute to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, which account for 35 percent of all deaths and 73 percent of deaths from unintentional injury in teenagers. Delaying the start of the school day by 60 minutes has been shown to affect crash rates by as much as 16.5 percent.
Longer total sleep time is associated with a variety of benefits for teen students:
- Reduced daytime sleepiness
- Increased engagement in class activities
- Reduced first-hour tardiness and absences
- Reduced depressive symptoms and irritability
Improved reaction time
The AASM adds that teens should avoid using electronic devices before going to bed or during the night, because these can disrupt sleep.