Blogs | Marcia Green

The Back Story: More research confirms high school needs to open later

Confirming what the Cumberland School Committee already knows, a researcher with Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center has published a study linking later school start times to "improved sleep and mood in teens."

The article, “Later School Start Time is Associated with Improved Sleep and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents,” appears in the current issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

School board members considered delaying the early start time at CHS last year but dropped the idea over the cost. The idea found some public support but I wondered why more parents of teens didn't rally behind this. School administrators have hinted they may raise the idea again this budget session.

In the study, researcher Julie Boergers had set out to determine "whether a relatively modest, temporary delay in school start time would change students’ sleep patterns, sleepiness, mood and caffeine use.”

Students in the study were due at school 25 minutes later - from 8 to 8:25 a.m. during the winter term.

The delay in school start time was associated with a 29-minute increase in sleep duration on school nights, with the percentage of students receiving eight or more hours of sleep on a school night jumping from 18 to 44 percent.

Daytime sleepiness, depressed mood and caffeine use were all significantly reduced after the delay in school start time. The later school start time had no effect on the number of hours students spent doing homework, playing sports or engaging in extracurricular activities.

She concluded: “If we more closely align school schedules with adolescents' circadian rhythms and sleep needs, we will have students who are more alert, happier, better prepared to learn, and aren’t dependent on caffeine and energy drinks just to stay awake in class.”

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