Pediatricians recommend later start times for schools

(Credit: MGN Online)

(Credit: MGN Online)

DENVER — Many teens have wondered at one point or another why their school bells ring before most of their parents clock in to work.

Those teens might feel vindicated to know that pediatricians are now wondering the exact same thing! The academy’s study was published online Monday in the journal “Pediatrics.”

According to an Associated Press report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended this week that the start of the school day be delayed until at least 8:30 a.m., saying this influential group of teen students is especially at risk when it comes to lack of sleep.

“Chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm,” the group wrote, citing studies that found most U.S. students in middle and high school don’t get anywhere near the recommended amount of sleep, which is 8.5 to 9.5 hours per school night.

According to government data cited in the report, more than 40 percent of public schools in the U.S. start classes before 8 a.m. That means waking up before dawn for many students who take the bus.

Evidence of potential dangers for teens who get too little sleep is “extremely compelling” and includes depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity, poor performance in school and on standardized tests and car accidents from drowsy driving, said Dr. Judith Owens, the policy’s lead author and director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

While the National Association of State Boards of Education didn’t exactly dispute the AAP’s findings, an association spokesperson said pushing the school day back would come with many challenges — most of them financial in nature.

School buses often make multiple routes for older students, whose days tend to start earlier, along with younger elementary school students, whose days tend to start later. Delaying the start of middle and high schools could mean adding or re-routing buses, which would come at a substantial cost to the taxpayer.

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