Do Early School Start Times Negatively Affect Children?

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According to the CDC, as reported by the Washington Post, the early start times of many schools are causing a nationwide sleep deficiency among children and especially among teens. The trend of sleep deprivation is apparently approaching a health crisis.

Teens’ biological clocks naturally make it difficult to fall asleep before 11:00 pm. School start times of 8:30 am or earlier thus make it nearly impossible for teens to get the recommended 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep.

The CDC study (available in full here) demonstrates that as few as 23% of students in the 12th grade and as few as 39% of 9th-grade students sleep 8 or more hours per night.

Although some schools have begun to reverse the trend of ever-earlier start times in response to pressure from parents, PTAs, and health officials, 75% or more of schools in 42 states still begin before 8:30.

School start times become expensive and complicated to adjust because of bus fleet schedules, after-school activities, and limited daylight hours, especially in northern states during the winter months.

An NPR special suggested a number of ways that parents can help encourage their children to schedule enough time for sleep by encouraging early bedtimes and by limiting the use of iPhones, computers and other screens in the evenings. Parents can also lobby for later start times and encourage schools and districts to make changes that will benefit the health of local children and teens.

What time does your child start school? Have you observed a difference in the way school start times affect your children?

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Emily McCord is an independent writer and policy and communications consultant. She worked on Capitol Hill in a Congressional office for two and a half years. She has experience teaching at the elementary, high-school, and college levels. She is a two-time English major, holding a B.A. from Belhaven University and an M.A. from Indiana University. She currently lives in Texas with her husband and 1-year-old little boy. Emily encourages women as they juggle career pursuits, healthy lifestyles, and family life at The Orange Slate and is delighted to contribute to MomThink. You can follow Emily on Instagram (@emilyamccord) or Twitter (@emilyamccord) as well.