Let Teens Sleep In: The Push For Later School Start Times

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A school bus arrives at PS 230 in Brooklyn on Friday, February 14. (Yasmeen Khan)

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) officially took a stance on later school start times, calling chronic drowsiness in teens a public health issue and advocating for middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 am. Dr. Cora Breuner, professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital, member of the Committee on Adolescents for the AAP, and an author of the recent AAP announcement explains the AAP's reasoning.


Dr. Cora Breuner

Comments [15]

Gregory A Butler from New York , NY

We've been using teenage apprentices in the construction industry for hundreds of years - they get to work at 6 30 AM ready to start work at 7 just like the grown folks do.

The Army and the Marines have teenage troops that are up at 4 30 and in formation by 5

Farm kids keep those hours too.

We need to stop mollycoddling our kids!

Sep. 03 2014 11:26 AM
Mary - NY from NY

Grade school for me started at 8:30 and I believe the same for H.S. In grade school I had to walk 8 blocks (no buses) and for H.S. I had to take public transit. We all managed to be awake for classes. Of course you will have 1 or 2 kids who are not motivated to get to school on time. My son was one of them even though he went to bed on time.(This was before internet/cell phones. One should get used to these hours since most work day schedules for working adults are these same hours. My son's HS principal back in the mid 80's told us in May, IF he shows up in class from then till June, he'll graduate. What kind of motivation is that for getting a diploma. It's no incentive to do well in class. JUST SHOW UP?

Sep. 03 2014 08:47 AM
NormaKate from NYC

There is a real problem of adults having sleep why not teenagers? Adults with sleep disorders are usually advised to turn off
appliances like the TV, the smart phone,etc. If I'm remembering correctly the light emitted by these devices say to the human brain: its daytime! & throw off the brain's ability to say its bedtime & time to sleep.
One of the effects of overuse of these devices also includes mega-couch potato status.
How about a study that compares teenagers who use these devices whenever to whatever hour while in couch potato mode to teenagers who do not &/or in restrained manner & physically exercise also restrained.

Sep. 03 2014 08:28 AM
margaret from massapequa

In my town, the HS starts @ 7:20, while the six Elementary schools have staggered starts (for bussing reasons) closer to 9 am, with the Middle School starting in between. I have always thought this should be reversed as the younger ones are able to get up earlier, while the older ones need the sleep and are more able to get themselves off on their own. I had a terrible time getting my three sons up during their HS years.

It would also seem that earlier elementary school start times would be better for working parents who now might be able to drop the children off at school before going to work rather than trying to hire someone to cover that one hour of morning time. It's much easier to fine after-school care than before-school care.

As for HS sports, let the kids who are motivated to participate get up early for their sport. I also think that High Schools should make an attempt to schedule the "heavier" classes later in the day so that the kids are more awake for them, or at least so that if they oversleep (like mine did OFTEN) they don't miss the more important subjects.

Sep. 02 2014 01:19 PM

When I was in high school in the late 60s, my mother finally made a command decision to let me sleep in an extra hour and drove me to school for 2nd period at about 9am. First period for all of us was an hour of homeroom where we were supposed to have a quiet time for reading or homework, so it was not an essential for me. I was one of the top three students in a very large high school so my school work hadn't suffered from the lack of sleep, but I was completely exhausted all the time. This extra hour helped enormously!

Sep. 02 2014 12:13 PM
Ed from Larchmont

It will be two days after the apocalypse and we'll still be talking about adjusting the schools. Oh, well.

Sep. 02 2014 11:24 AM
JP from Neptune, New Jersey

Countries like China, South Korea, & France start their school days inline w/ours & still outperfom us. I don't think it's a solution, but do feel it's worth trying as the status quo isn't working.

Sep. 02 2014 10:36 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

The sports argument is a red herring. It's about cutting costs for bussing and having the older ones home to watch the younger ones. After care is probably $240/mo per child (on average).

When I was in high school, '71-'75, school day was 8:20-2:40. A ninth period from 2:45-3:25, sports from 3:30-6:00. I had to walk to school.

My son (Class of 2010) had to be at the bus stop 6:45 for a 7:20 start time. Hogwash!

Interestingly, my grammar school (across the street from the high school) started at 8:15. That school was closed (supposedly as school system integration) and my new school day did not start until 9:10. I walked to that school, too.

The heavy prevalence of school bussing is also an issue. The wasted time and potential would more than pay itself back.

Sep. 02 2014 10:32 AM

folks it's not just about blood flow and better sleep,physical activity also helps to synchronize our cerebral hemispheres. can we please have a 21st Century discussion,here?!

Sep. 02 2014 10:30 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

How about having sports in the morning before school?

Sep. 02 2014 10:27 AM
Tom from Toronto

When I was growing up in Canada, our classes started right before 9. The extra 30 mins made all the difference.

Sep. 02 2014 10:19 AM

These recommendations appear to presume that high school (and middle school) kids have a regular bedtime, which I don't think is common at all.
My experience is that many high school students stay up way past midnight, and even those who "go to bed" actually stay up later, texting their friends and using social media.
There's no shortage of parents who complain that their kid doesn't get to bed before 2am because of homework, when in fact, that kid's time after school and up till bedtime is just poorly managed.
What if school scheduled things like gym early, and required kids to get actual aerobic activity? This could set healthy patterns later in life.
I can't stand hearing people say that they are not 'morning people" because if you ask, they almost always tell you that they stay up late, and, even if it's 2am, their bedtimes are not regular.
There is tremendous parental denial about their kids' habits and behaviors when it comes to sleep and homework.

Sep. 02 2014 10:15 AM

Take the cars away from tired teens

Offer naps.

Sep. 02 2014 10:10 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

to Susan:

As a high school English teacher I know that serious works of literature require students to do serious reading on their own. Other subjects also need some independent work if students are to learn. How can that be accomplished with the homework constraints you recommend?

Sep. 02 2014 10:06 AM
Susan from Morningside Hts.

In addition to letting them sleep later, don't assign more homework than 10-minutes per grade. In high school that would be 90 minutes in 9th grade, maxing out at two hours in twelfth grade. A meta-analysis of homework research by Duke Univ.'s Harris Cooper found that anything over this amount did not improve academic outcomes anyway. Let them have an after-school life, and let them sleep!

Susan Crawford, Director
The Right to Read Project
Author of Help! My Child Isn't Reading Yet,
What Should I Do?
Plus: Mother of two, ages 19 and 24, so ... been there!

Sep. 02 2014 09:57 AM

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