4 Benefits of Later School Start Times


4 Benefits of Later School Start Times

4 Benefits of Later School Start Times

SoalSMA - 4 Benefits of Later School Start Times - Getting back into the school schedule after a lazy summer can be a difficult adjustment, especially for youngsters.

Adolescents are biologically hardwired to stay up later than younger children, and getting up earlier for school can contribute to shorter sleep durations, experts say.  But delaying school start times can help. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start earlier than 8:30 a.m., citing adolescent sleep deprivation as a public health concern, but as of 2017, the average start time for public high schools nationwide was 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.  % Schools started before 7:30.

This fall, California became the first state to mandate late school hours, requiring public high schools to start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and middle schools no earlier than 8 a.m. Supporters say the change doesn't just stop California's teenagers and young adults.  It costs a few extra Zs, but it offers many other important benefits.

"There are improvements across the board: grades are improving, student numbers are up and graduation rates are up significantly," said the parenting journalist and author of "The Sleep-Deprived Toddler: Why Our Teens Are So Tired," and how it can help parents and schools grow.

Opponents of a later start time say it can cause significant logistical problems with bus routes, parents' work schedules and extracurricular activities such as after-school sports.

"Studies show that teenagers get more sleep when school starts later," says Elinor Boecke, director of communications for the nonprofit organization Start School Later.  Lobby for California's new law.

California's implementation of the new law comes at a time when many young people's sleep habits have changed due to the pandemic.

  • Here are some benefits of early school days
  • Better mental and physical health.
  • Improved learning outcomes.
  • Reduced risk of car accidents and injuries.
  • Less lag. 

Better mental and physical health  

Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, but nearly 60% of middle school students and more than 70% of high school students don't get enough sleep on school nights, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

During puberty, changes in the body's "sleep drive" and the delayed release of the sleep hormone melatonin cause teenagers to fall asleep earlier. 

Shelby Harris, a sleep psychologist and clinical associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says studies show that teenagers get more sleep when school starts later.  This leads to better physical and mental health, including reduced levels of depression and anxiety, and reduced caffeine consumption, Harris says. 

According to a study conducted by the Center for Applied Research and Education Improvement at the University of Minnesota, teenagers who reported getting at least eight hours of sleep per night were generally in better health and less likely to use caffeine and other substances for anxiety.

"Kids are more likely to eat breakfast, and teachers find that kids are smiling and alert in their first period," Boke said.

Improved learning outcomes

When school starts later, "emotion, academics, attendance and graduation rates all improve," Harris says.

For example, a study by the National Sleep Foundation showed the cost of both attendance and graduation. Schools that delayed their start times to 8.30am or later "improved significantly". 

In a study of Wake County, North Carolina, middle schools with variable start times, economics professor Finley Edwards found that starting classes an hour later raised test scores by an average of 2 percent in math and 1.5 points in English.  The effects were larger for low-performing students. 

Using Edwards' method, but on a national scale, the authors of another study estimated that eighth graders' National Learning Progress math scores would increase by as much as 8 points if schools started an hour later, nearly equal to what many experts say.  Full grade increase.

Jessica Baltax, an 11th-grader at Angelo Rodriguez High School in Fairfield, Calif., starts classes a half hour later this year and says students like to sleep in. 

"Half an hour doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it makes a big difference," she says. 

"A lot of students go to bed late because of their coursework and extracurriculars, so giving them more time in the morning makes them have a more productive day." 

Car accidents and injuries are reduced

Several studies have shown that overall car crash and distracted driving crash rates decrease significantly with late school starts, which may reduce mortality and morbidity among adolescents.

Research on late school days has shown fewer sports-related injuries, Harris says. 

Several studies show the importance of adequate sleep for student athletes.

"Sleeping well and sleeping at the right time has been shown to improve the accuracy and reaction time of student athletes and significantly reduce their risk of injury," says Boke.

Hansika Dagolu is in 11th grade at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California, where the start of the school day has been moved from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.  She is looking forward to the change.

“I think starting school later would be especially beneficial for me and for kids who have after-school commitments like sports.  "We sleep more, so we can perform better," says Dagolou.

Less delay 

Resting regularly can be an issue for sleep-deprived teenagers.  But starting classes later makes it easier for students to arrive on time. 

Repeated studies show that starting high schools at 8:30 or later significantly increases on-time attendance, said Joy Wake, director of advocacy for Start School.

She recognizes this especially for students who are struggling financially or who are low performers, who may find it difficult to get enough sleep and get to school on time.

"Being well rested increases emotional resilience," says Lewis.  "When teenagers get more sleep, they are better equipped emotionally to deal with all the daily stressors."

While the Baltax delay may not be an issue, she says the later start times make a big difference for busy students like herself.

"Before, I would still wake up in class, but now I feel more prepared to take on the day," Baltax said.

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