Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Doctors: Early school start times unhealthy for students

By Sara Cheshire, Special to CNN
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sleep-deprived teens are at risk for obesity, depression and accidents
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
  • Parents can help by enforcing bedtimes that provide 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep

(CNN) -- If you think school starts too early, you aren't the only one.

A new policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics is on the side of groggy students falling asleep at their desks and their parents who are tired of nagging them to get out of bed in the morning.

They say that lack of sleep in adolescents causes poor academic performance and poses a serious public health concern. Traffic accidents, depression and obesity can result, with schools that start too early contributing to the problem.

The technical report released with the policy statement says that sleep-deprived teens tend to eat more carbohydrates and fats, with every hour of sleep that is lost increasing the odds of obesity by 80%. Adolescents that go to sleep at midnight or later are also more likely to suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts.

On the other hand, middle and high schools that start later in the day tend to have students with less daytime sleepiness, less tardiness, fewer attention difficulties and better academic performance than early-starting schools.

Sleep deprivation linked to depression in teens

Even if you don't have children in school, you might still be impacted if you drive to work.

One community in Lexington, Kentucky, decreased the average crash rate for teenaged drivers by 16.5% after delaying high school start times by one hour, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. And a two-year study of two high schools in Virginia found that the school with the later start time had significantly fewer students in accidents.

Fatal wrecks underscore risks for young drivers

To reduce these public health concerns, the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement recommends that schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Only 14% of public high schools currently meet this guideline, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

"I'm hoping that the visibility of the sleep deprivation issue and research can help spark more discussion," said Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time & Learning and former U.S. Department of Education deputy assistant secretary.

When the topic of later school start times arises, parents and school administrators often express concerns over work conflicts -- How can I drop my kid off at 9 if I have to be at the office at 8:30? -- and after-school activities. Administrators say the school day needs to end early enough in the afternoon that sports team can share fields and practice before it gets dark.

"It's one more example of how are schools need to be student centered," Davis argued. "There are thousands of children, bus schedules, lunch schedules, parent needs. But we have to focus on how we are going to help our children succeed. And making sure they have enough sleep is one of those things."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night, which parents can help enforce by setting bedtimes and limiting their child's use of electronic devices and social media in bed.

"Avoid keeping screens such as computers or TVs in your child's bedroom, and keep portable ones (phones, tablets, handheld games) out as much as possible," said Dr. Jennifer Shu, a board-certified pediatrician in Atlanta. "It can be helpful to have a central charging station where all of the family's electronics spend the night."

She adds that parents can also encourage sleep routines such as reading before bed and avoid scheduling music lessons, sports and social events that might delay bedtime.

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

"Setting the stage for good sleep now is an important habit that can make a difference in your child's future health," Shu said. If you have concerns, talk to a pediatrician or check out the National Institutes of Health's guide to healthy sleep."

Part of complete coverage on
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1355 GMT (2155 HKT)
Is there an unspoken rule in Hollywood that celebrity parents can only pick unusual names for their kids?
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
The premise is simple: You can eat one marshmallow now or, if you can wait, you get to eat two marshmallows later.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
While most children wait and hope Santa visits them at home on Christmas Eve, this year dozens of Denver-area children went directly to the big man's arctic home turf.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Almost 300 students who had been rejected by Johns Hopkins University received a joyous shock over the weekend when the prestigious Baltimore school said they'd been admitted after all -- but they hadn't.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
There is no way around the topic of nakedness in front of your children without getting personal and slightly uncomfortable.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Teens might be shedding their rebellious reputations: A survey says they're doing fewer drugs, drinking and smoking less. But E-cigarette use is up.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Carol Costello asks whether American culture sends a message to girls that it's not cool to study math and science fields.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
It's that special time of year, when Christmas and Hanukkah toy sellers try to put children in a box.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Foodies and travelers: They're adventurous, they have discerning tastes and they love to discover a little-known jewel. Here's how to shop for them.
CNN iReport asked families with children with developmental and physical disabilities to share what their lives are like.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Don't know what to get parents who are always on the move or kids who seem to have everything? This is just the list for you.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0445 GMT (1245 HKT)
You probably know LOL and OMG -- but what about IWSN, CU46 or IPN. It's all about KPC -- "keeping parents clueless."
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Out of control parties, sex and alcohol are some of the dangers kids might get into when left alone overnight. But some are mature enough to handle it. How do you know?
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
Across the country and around the world, synthetic drugs are tearing holes in families.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
There's no place like home for the holidays -- and for one little girl in Cleveland, it's the only place.
Girl Scout cookie sales are entering the 21st century. For the first time ever, Girl Scout cookies will be sold online through a national platform called Digital Cookie. This breaks the organization's ban on e-sales of Thin Mints and Samoas.
December 1, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Author/actor B.J. Novak
B.J. Novak is catering to kids. His first children's book tops the New York Times list of best selling children's picture books. But here's the catch: it actually doesn't have any pictures.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Hundreds of students walked out of their Oklahoma high school Monday to protest the school's response to the alleged bullying of three classmates who say they were raped by the same person.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2220 GMT (0620 HKT)
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
ADVERTISEMENT