Link Between Early School Start Times and Car AccidentsAugust 24, 2017
Between school, activities, and friends, teens have a lot on their plate. When you combine these daily pressures with the fact that too many teenagers are not receiving enough sleep, serious consequences can occur. Some believe this chronic fatigue issue is directly related to how early schools across the country start their day. According to Nathaniel Watson, M.D. at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the early start times may increase the incidence of depression, poor academic performance, and serious car accidents among teens.
Researchers state that teenagers going through puberty tend to experience a circadian shift, where their internal clock causes them to go to sleep at a later time. This can continue well into their teen years considering the fact that 83 percent of public middle and high schools across the country start at approximately 8:00 a.m. The early start time combined with falling asleep later at night can lead to increased sleep deprivation.
Researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggest that teenagers should start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. They claim that this will allow teens to obtain the sleep they need, thus improving their academic performance, mental health, and overall safety.
Two Sides to the Debate Over School Start Times
Whereas certain health officials and many parents fully support the idea of a later start time, many school administrators argue that starting the school day later would interfere with after-school sports and activities. A later start would not leave enough time needed for practices, games, late buses, and other factors. The amount of sleep recommended for teens between the ages of 13 and 18 is eight to ten hours per night. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control report that two-thirds of students sleep seven hours or less each night, which is substantially less than what most children need. The academy said, over time, lack of sleep is associated with obesity, athletic injuries, depression and other potentially serious health issues. One published study reported that a one-hour delay in start time resulted in a 16.5 percent drop in student car accidents.
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