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Should schools push back start times to accommodate sleepy teens?




A pupil concentrates in a classroom at the Europeen school of Strasbourg, eastern France, on September 4, 2012, after the start of the new school year.
A pupil concentrates in a classroom at the Europeen school of Strasbourg, eastern France, on September 4, 2012, after the start of the new school year.
FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

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The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement yesterday advocating later school start times to accommodate teen sleep schedules.

Anyone who’s ever tried to get a teenager out of bed knows why: teens body clocks make it hard for them to fall asleep before 11pm and wake up before 8am, so as a group, they’re not quite morning people. At a time of critical mental and physical development, sleep is especially important, and teens need a lot of it.

The AAP recommendations say that allowing a teen to wake up after 8am would improve the quality of their learning during the day. Nationally, 43 percent of schools have start times before 8am.

Critics of plans to push back school start times argue that orchestrating widespread changes to scheduling is too difficult, and that later start times mean later end times: for kids with increasingly busy after school schedules, that could be a problem.

What’s the best way to accommodate teen body clocks? Should schools push back their start times?

Guest:

Dr. Judith Owens, Director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National Health System, member of the American Board of Pediatrics