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 , “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, “,” published in the September 2014 issue of Pediatrics.

According to , “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 , "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.