Parents conflicted about delayed school start times
Long hours of extracurricular activities, after school jobs, cramming for the SAT and finishing piles of homework—no wonder teenagers are sleep deprived. But could these overscheduled adolescents benefit from starting school later in the day?
A recent poll by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital finds that parents are split about delaying start times for middle school and high school students.
“The idea to delay school start times is still fairly new, and our poll shows that parents seem conflicted about whether or not it’s the right move,” said Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health in a news release.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended middle schools and high schools start school at 8:30 am or later after evidence showed there were benefits in adolescents’ physical and mental health including reduced risk of obesity and depression, lower motor vehicle accidents, less drug use and an increase in school performance.
The new recommendation prompted the university to conduct a national poll to thousands of parents who had teens ranging in ages from 13 to 17 years old.
The poll’s results include:
- Parents were worried that later times would affect their schedules and other logistics.
- 40 percent of parents believe a later school start time would allow for their teens to get more sleep.
- 22 percent of parents think it would improve their teen’s school performance.
- 22 percent of parents believe that later start times would now allow enough time for after school activities.
- 14 percent said it would negatively affect transportation.
- Only 20 percent of parents had heard about the new AAP guidelines, while, 71 percent agreed with the guidelines after hearing about them.
- 27 percent of parents would support a later school start only if it didn’t impact school budget. While 24 percent would support the change regardless of how it affected school budgets.
“Teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived and that can negatively impact their health and well-being. We know teens are biologically wired to have later sleep cycles, which has raised the question of whether school start times that align to adolescents’ natural sleep rhythms could help improve health outcomes,” said Davis.
The debate over school times has been seen in communities across the country. Locally, a community member and advocate for a national initiative Start School Later introduced the idea to Barrington District 220 school board and is currently being reviewed for approval.
AAP insists that adolescents receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night and medical experts couldn’t agree more.
“While getting enough sleep can be difficult, teens should make an effort to do so in order to stay healthy and perform their best at school,” says Herando Jaramillo, sleep lab supervisor at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.
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