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
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0252 GMT (1052 HKT)
Ask any teen if they suffer from social media anxiety and they would probably tell you no. But the truth is getting "likes" and the fear of missing out are adding stress to teens' lives.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1313 GMT (2113 HKT)
Many photographers have taken it upon themselves to document stillborn and terminal babies' precious moments after birth.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1946 GMT (0346 HKT)
As part of the insurance coverage offered to its female employees, Facebook is paying to freeze their eggs.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Amal Alamuddin was well-known in many important circles long before she snagged the world's most eligible bachelor. But Amal Alamuddin is now Amal Clooney, according to her law firm's website.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Trends in young adult fiction have shifted from wizards to glittering vampires to bloodthirsty "Hunger Games" and now, to teens coping with illnesses and realistic issues.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Before he died this year, 14-year-old Martin Romero wanted to do something for his community.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
A 12-year-old girl called Dick's Sporting Goods out on its lack of female athletes in the Basketball 2014 catalog.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
Before he was even born, Shane Michael Haley had already met the Philadelphia Phillies, been to the top of the Empire State Building and shared a cheesesteak with his parents.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I read the initial comments from Microsoft's CEO on how women who don't ask for raises will receive "good karma."
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
A photo series "From the NICU to the Moon" imagines premature babies in future professions with a series of imaginative doodles.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
Jessica Dunne and her father Michael P. Dunne
"I don't think anyone is ready for grief. But when it hits you, it knocks you out cold," Jessica Dunne wrote after the sudden loss of her father.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Most moms will say they long for a day when moms stop criticizing one another, but most of us are guilty of tearing each other down.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
When we think of terminal cancer patients, we don't imagine Brittany Maynard -- 29, vigorous, happy. But she will soon take a handful of pills that will end her life.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
"Back in my day, we used to walk five miles uphill, carrying all our books in the blistering cold and the pouring rain..." Some schools have found a new way to making walking to school safer -- and more fun.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The death of a New Jersey boy, the first health officials are directly linking to Enterovirus D68, has parents wondering whether school is the worst place to send kids susceptible to the virus.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1422 GMT (2222 HKT)
It's a heartbreaking time for three families, football teams and communities after three players died last week. Investigations are under way, but some parents are wondering, is the sport safe for children?
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
Here's what some schools are doing to create welcoming environments for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1852 GMT (0252 HKT)
Nothing could prepare this mom-to-be for what she learned at her first ultrasound.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
A 15-year-old British schoolboy has struck a chord with his eloquent response to actress Emma Watson's United Nations speech encouraging men to join in the fight for gender equality.
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.
ADVERTISEMENT