Group says teens need later school start times

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Pediatricians say kids aren’t getting enough sleep, and school schedules are to blame.

Alarm clocks are everyone’s enemy, but doctors now say pre-teens and teenagers shouldn’t be waking up as early as they do for school because it isn’t healthy.

Elizabeth McCallister has two kids in elementary school, but when they get to middle school, their classes will start at 7am.

“I think an 8 o’clock start time is much more reasonable than a 7 a.m. start time,” she said.

That’s a change she isn’t looking forward to, and doctors are on her side.

A new policy released by the American Academy of Pediatrics says schools should delay class start times until at least 8:30 a.m. for teen students.

Dr. Judith Owens with the Children’s National Medical Center said, “There is now a solid body of evidence that delaying school start times at both the middle and high school level reverse a lot of the negative consequences.”

The AAP says teens are especially at risk — for them, “chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm.”

Numerous studies have found middle, and high school students don’t get the recommended 8½ to 9½ hours on school nights.

Biological changes associated with puberty result in a shift in circadian rhythms, causing adolescents to get tired later at night, sleep experts say.

The changes can start in middle school and can shift a child’s bedtime by as much as two hours.

Studying late at night and using electronics close to bedtime can delay sleep.

But not all parents are sympathizing with the sleepy teenagers.

“Be responsible for your own children. It’s as simple as that,” Dongola Pittman said.

She says parents need to step up and hold kids to a schedule at home, the same way teachers do in the classroom.

“Curfews, all that good stuff. Meal times, study times, you know structure,” she said. “Because that’s the way school is set up.”

But other parents say Shelby County Schools should really take a look at pushing start times, back for both the kids’ and the parents’ sake.

McCallister said, “Moms and dads, too. Instead of having to get up quite so early to get kids rushed out the door when they haven’t had breakfast, or a proper night’s sleep.”

Some parents in Shelby County have already been pushing for later start times, and truancy officers with Shelby County Schools also support a later school start time. They say the later kids are in class, the less time they have to spend on the street committing crimes.

More than 40 percent of the nation’s public high schools start classes before 8 a.m., according to government data cited in the policy.

Use of school buses as well as after school sports practices and games are often referenced as a reason for earlier school times.

11 comments

    • George Brown

      Biological changes associated with puberty result in a shift in circadian rhythms, causing adolescents to get tired later at night, sleep experts say.

      The changes can start in middle school and can shift a child’s bedtime by as much as two hours.

      Studying late at night and using electronics close to bedtime can delay sleep.

      • bobalu

        Cut off their electronic use at 6:00 p.m. Why were we not affected by this in the 80’s? What about all the kids who have to get on a school bus at 7 am or earlier.

  • Joe Smith

    Good grief, the solution is too obvious for words, but I’ll say them anyway: GO TO SLEEP EARLIER!!!
    Starting school later just enables poor habits and time mismanagement. I don’t believe you’ll be able to convince me these students in general are staying up late at night doing homework or some other productive activity; I’m guessing it’s more watching TV, texting, surfing the internet, chatting, or otherwise wasting their free time. Since there’s no immediate consequence for poor performance in school for the student, why should they care to spend their free time preparing (in this case, by getting sufficient sleep to enable attentive behavior).

    What are we going to do with these teens when it comes to work? “Oh, just start your work day later”?

    • George Brown

      Just added this info I found..
      Biological changes associated with puberty result in a shift in circadian rhythms, causing adolescents to get tired later at night, sleep experts say.

      The changes can start in middle school and can shift a child’s bedtime by as much as two hours.

      Studying late at night and using electronics close to bedtime can delay sleep.

    • donaknowsitall

      Joe, did you read the article. It said the the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending this not the parents.
      I happen to agree with the doctors on this one.

      • Thomas H. Evans

        So let’s see, we now want to have school hours changed because some lazy doctors have come up with the idea our kids are becoming unhealthy because they have to get up early to go to school; not because they are not doing their home work in the early evening when they should be, but are playing on these electronic games until they get tired, and maybe then they will do home work if they can fit that into their schedule. All we do is make excuses for our kids today, when most of us had to get up in the morning and walk, run, or catch a school bus if we were so lucky. As for them being over weight, stop feeding them fast foods five days a week. We are now raising a bunch of lazy, disrespectful children and making excuses for it. Please don’t buy into this latest excuse, please. Get your kids butts in the bed on time and that takes care of the problem. Next we will want the parents employer to start their business an hour later so they have time to get to work because they couldn’t get their kids to go to bed like we (I) did. Get their fat butts outside for a few minutes of exercise away from face book, tweeter, and all the rest of the games they play. There are way more important things going on in our schools today to now put this off on SCS; get your kids to bed and to school on time, no more excuses.

    • Long Gone

      Joe the problem going to be if you take away their electronic. Unless there’s a APP they’re lost. Have you seen the commercial where the guy has his tablet on the grill and is screening at it to light fire?

  • Long Gone

    “Biological changes associated with puberty result in a shift in circadian rhythms, causing adolescents to get tired later at night, sleep experts say”
    Its because they’re staying up all night. Its a learned behavior. This just proves you can always find someone to say anything.
    Its like watching ancient aliens.

  • Harold

    So if I am sleepy early in the morning my employer should look into a later start time for my job?
    I don’t think so. Kids need to learn to manage their time and get the sleep they need. This will only help them to prepare for a job when they get out of school.
    My 13 year old is in band and football this year but I am not going to let him sleep in when he has a late game. My employer would not allow me to do that and right now school is his job, and he better keep his grades up also.
    A weak upbringing produces a weak adult.

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