Sleep Patterns of Children and Teens Suggests Later Start Time for Schools
Most of us grew up in a time where high school started somewhere between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. We worked after-school jobs, participated in after-school activities and stayed up late to complete our homework –long before the conveniences of today’s technology. However recent research on this ingrained practice in American culture has shown that this may not be a best practice to continue.
Sleeping Patterns of Children and Teens
Recent studies have shown that a later start time in schools may benefit children and teens. In one study, 94 children and teens were studied over a two-year period. The goal of this study was to learn how sleep habits and patterns evolved with age in these populations. Researchers found that as children grew older, their bedtime shifted by nearly an hour between the ages of nine and fifteen. Findings demonstrated that a typical nine year old went to sleep at 9:30 p.m. and awakened at 6:40 a.m. By the time this same nine year old child reached the age of 15, he/she went to sleep at 10:35 p.m. and awakened at 6:20 a.m. That time shifted slightly by the age of 17 with an 11:05 p.m. bedtime followed by a wake-up call at 6:35 a.m. This shift in bedtime as age increased supports the arguments that older students become more alert at night as their sleep patterns start changing in adolescence for a variety of reasons ranging from simple distractions to hormonal changes and more schoolwork to social demands and are unable to fall asleep early.
Risk Factors for Children and Teens Who Do Not Get Enough Sleep
When children and teens do not get enough sleep, they are at an increased risk for obesity, unhealthy blood pressure levels, depression, suicidal thoughts, auto accidents and poor academic performance. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that schools for children between the ages of 10 and 18 should not start any earlier than 8:30 a.m. In 2013, it was noted that 85 per cent of schools start earlier.
Various studies have demonstrated that there are benefits associated with later starts for children and teens. For example, a three-year study of 9000 students from eight high schools before and after the introduction of later starts found improved grades and a 65 per cent reduction in teen car accidents.
Sleep Recommendations for Children and Teens
Critics of the various study findings that support a later school start time recommend that rather than 'coddling' children and teens with later school start times, the current practice should be maintained. In addition, children and teens should be encouraged to go to bed at earlier times and put down the distractions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that teens get nine to ten hours of sleep every night.
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