Push back school start times, pediatricians say

Elk Grove Village, IL – More Z’s could equal more A’s for teen students.

That’s the message from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is calling for middle schools and high schools to push back the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. AAP published a policy statement Aug. 25 calling for the change, which it said would align school schedules with the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents.

Teens need eight-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep on school nights, experts say, and it can be difficult for them to go to sleep before 11 p.m. because their sleep-wake cycles shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty. But later bedtimes do not mix well with school schedules, many of which feature starting times around 7:30 a.m.

“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, lead author of the policy statement.