Doctors Say Let Them Sleep In

Sleepy Student

Your teenager wants to sleep later and now his doctor agrees. Middle and high school students shouldn’t have to start school until 8:30 in the morning or later, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance.”

In a new policy statement published online August 25, the AAP recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

“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, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “School Start Times for Adolescents,” published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics.

According to NBC News, “Many school districts are debating making the change. South Carolina principal Amanda O'Nan moved Hilton Head High School's start time from 7:45 to 8:35 this year as a pilot experiment and told NBC News that she expects it to help kids focus on academics.”

According to NPR.org, "Letting teenagers sleep later typically means an earlier start for elementary schools, and sets off a cascade of adjustments. But this is one area of health where the evidence is unequivocal, the pediatricians say. As children become teenagers, their sleep-wake cycle shifts two hours later, so it's difficult, if not impossible, for them to go to sleep before 10:30 p.m."

So, what can you as a parent do?
• Limit screen time, especially at night. Light from an iPad or iPhone can keep a brain in an awake state.
• Have your teen take a 20-minute nap. This can take the edge off and temporarily restore alertness.