We all know, it’s hard for teenagers to fall asleep early, the way their melatonin is being regulated and their hormones are secreting they need a lot of sleep but can’t seem to fall asleep before 11:00.
Factor in that many high school kids are getting up while it’s still dark out at 6:00 a.m. they are lacking at least two to three hours of sleep every single night!
Sleep experts recommend that adolescents get up to 11 hours of sleep a night…seems to me that only on weekends is that possible for most teens.
What the Research Says
This research on the benefits of later school start times has been looked at since the early 1990’s when Brown University came out with data highlighting the many benefits of earlier start times.
What we know is there are so many positive studies done that show there are fewer car accidents in the mornings without drowsy teenagers behind the wheel.
This is important as car accidents are the leading cause of death among adolescents.
Other benefits include greater motivation, less tardiness, higher achievement scores and where there are the gaps between lower and higher achieving students, those gaps actually get smaller. So there’s really positive research on this.
Later Start Times Matter More Than Activities
It is a fair argument against later start times as that also means later end times to the school day.
This has an impact on sports and activities, however, with good time management and coordination I am confident it can all get done.
I think how our kids learn and how they are feeling in the morning is more important than clubs, practices, and games.
We see that kids are sleeping on the bus and sometimes they’re sleeping in first and second period, too. We have a generation of sleep deprived kids and we have to respond to this problem.
I think one of the things parents should be thinking is, “My kid needs to be asleep by 10:30,” and that seems reasonable, even if they are coming home later from activities after school.
Teens can also be more efficient with their time; less social media and less TV, which is another research outcome. Research shows kids with later start times watch less TV and have less overall screen time.
This is a parent’s opportunity to say, “the school time is changing, we’re going to have an hour or an hour and a half less after-school.”
We have to be really careful about our time. Parents should help kids build in downtime that isn’t social media. Truly just downtime.
It’s very common that parents find teenagers under the covers watching Netflix at midnight. This is not downtime!
The school start change is something that’ll be new. I think it will take a while to see the positives, but they’re going to be there.
Finland has been doing this for decades.
I’m very much for it, although the two disadvantages are certainly for the kids and sometimes the parents and their work schedules. But overall, it seems to be a change worth trying.
Sheryl Ziegler, Psy.D. is a Doctor of Psychology who specializes in children and families. She is the author of the upcoming book, Mommy Burnout, How Addressing Yours Will Make You A Better Mother And Create A Better Life For Your Children. Dr. Ziegler is the mother of three children in Denver, Colorado. You can follow her parenting advice in her newsletter by signing up today. www.drsherylziegler.com.