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Study Suggests Later School Start Times Make Adolescents Happier, Better Performers

photo (95)A new study conducted by the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center has linked later school start times to improved daytime functioning in adolescents. Researchers found that delaying school start times by only 25 minutes led to an average of 29 additional minutes of sleep for students and a 26 percent increase in students receiving eight or more hours of sleep per night.

There’s no question additional sleep is a good thing, but just how does this increase in sleep translate to better daytime functioning for adolescents?

According to the study, daytime sleepiness and caffeine consumption were significantly reduced, while mood and academic performance levels improved.

Julie Boergers, co-director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital says of the research findings, “If we more closely align school schedules with adolescents’ circadian rhythms and sleep needs, we will have students who are more alert, happier, better prepared to learn, and aren’t dependent on caffeine and energy drinks just to stay awake in class.”

When Boy Wonder’s school was designated a “late start school,” transitioning from an 8:13 am start time to 8:40 am, district parents weren’t sure what to think. The late start program presented an obvious concern for working parents and the later 3:20 pm dismissal time presented challenges relating to extracurricular activities and timing homework/dinner schedules. I can tell you from personal experience, none of us thought about how this might improve the overall functioning of our children.

Now that we’re two years into the late start schedule, I can honestly say that I haven’t seen a change in my tween as a result of this later school start time; then again, the study focused on teenagers. According to Boergers, “Most teenagers undergo a biological shift to a later sleep-wake cycle, which can make early school start times particularly challenging.” In all likelihood, Boy Wonder hasn’t yet reached the biological shift to a later sleep cycle, and with a 9 pm bedtime, he doesn’t struggle to put in those much-needed eight hours of sleep the way many teens do.

While there’s not much parents can do about traditional early school start times, we can encourage adequate sleep schedules and regular nighttime routines for the mental and physical health of our growing teens and tweens.

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