February 08, 2010 03:40 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Research shows that teens' natural sleep cycle is to sleep later in the morning. Some schools are responding by pushing back start times. Ringing the School Bell Later
Teens have long felt that the school day starts too early: A 2007 survey of teens in Philadelphia found that most students believed a 7:30 a.m. start time at school prevented them from getting enough sleep. Ninety percent of the students surveyed felt that if school started later, their academic performance would improve. They also said the best time for them to be taking exams would be between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
New research seems to substantiate their claims. According to Marissa Cevallos, writing for the San Jose Mercury News, puberty affects sleep cycles. "When teens hit puberty, their internal circadian clocks wind forward 1-3 hours, meaning they need 9 hours of sleep on average, a couple more hours than their younger siblings."
Several schools in California and around the United States and Britain have listened. In the U.S., 19 states have adjusted start times for certain schools to be later in the day, and 17 more states are looking in to the practice. The goal is to help teens get more sleep.
A Minneapolis school district that has made the later start adjustment seems to be seeing the benefits. Kyla Wahlstrom, an educational researcher, found that students were less depressed, easier for their parents to deal with, and more attentive to their teachers with a later start time, according to NPR. She also reported that with a later start time, fewer students dropped out of school.
Later school start times might have one positive and unpredicted effect on teens: a lower car crash rate. A Kansas school district adjusted start times to be an hour later; a study of the teen car crash rates before and after the adjustment found a significantdrop in the number of...