CNN Senior National Editor
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/LIVING/personal/12/03/college.costs/art.classroom2.cnn.jpg caption="Pushing back school start times by just 30 minutes each day can improve alertness, mood and health in adolescents." width=300 height=169]
“If you don’t get up now, you’re going to be late for school!”
Do you remember hearing this during high school?
Have you ever said this to your high school student child?
If you answered yes to either question (I did to both) you’ll be interested in the results of a recent study.
I know it’s summer vacation and a lot of teenagers think rising for lunch is appropriate. But in two weeks (yup, the second week in August), it’s back to school for our boys, a high school senior and a sixth-grader.
When the older boy complains that school starts too early, he may have science on his side. "Beginning at the onset of puberty, adolescents develop as much as a two-hour sleep-wake phase delay (later sleep onset and wake times) relative to sleep-wake cycles in middle childhood," the authors of a study on the subject wrote in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
CNN summarized the study’s conclusion: “Pushing back school start times by just 30 minutes each day can improve alertness, mood and health in adolescents.”
Based on years of observation – of our teen son and his sister now in college – I tend to agree. The research says that this age group needs 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep nightly. Does anyone know a high school student getting that much sleep when school is in session? A study in 2006 by the National Sleep Foundation found that more than half of high school students slept fewer than eight hours a night. No surprise that that not getting enough sleep contributes to being unhappy, depressed, annoyed or irritated.
The latest study focused on 200 students at the St. George’s School, a private school in Providence, Rhode Island, where the bell that once rang at 8 a.m. was re-set to 8.30 a.m. “What surprised me most,” Head of School Eric F. Peterson said, “was the breadth of the benefit. I kind of figured things would be a little better in some ways. They seemed to be so much better in many ways.”
Tracking the effects of changing the time school starts for the older set is the subject of an online campaign in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., by a group called SLEEP (Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal). SLEEP ironically found itself opposed by WAKE (Worried About Keeping Extra-curriculars), which worried what would happen to after-school activities.
A study of two other Virginia school districts with different start times found that a later bell can even help reduce the incidence of teenage vehicle accidents.
Delaying the start time for the older kids might mean changes in the school day for younger kids, wreak havoc on bus schedules and parents dropping off and picking up their kids and force rescheduling of sports, play practice and other after school events. And, yes, there are teenagers who will continue to stay up late, show up late and pay too little attention no matter what time the bell rings.
The bottom line: "If you really need nine hours, and you're only getting six and a half hours or seven hours, even that extra half-hour can make a big difference," said Dr. Judith A. Owens, director of the pediatric sleep disorder center at Hasbro Children's Hospital, who directed the Providence research.
What do you think? Does high school start too early in the morning?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with