It’s nearly back to school time for many children and teens around the world. With back to school comes new schedules and routines, but for some, the early morning wake-up could be impacting their ability to learn and perform their best. Early school start times can be challenging on children, particularly those in their teens. Why is that? The SleepScore Labs experts explore the issue and the direction they’d like to see the future of school start times go.
What kind of sleep do children need?
As children age, they need not only different amounts of sleep, but also different sleep schedules, based on their circadian rhythms.
“Teens, in particular, have a delayed circadian rhythm,” notes SleepScore Labs advisor Dr. Nate Watson. “This means they don’t get tired until late in the evening, somewhere around 11 pm or even later.”
Because of this delay, teens need to sleep in so they can get their recommended 8-10 hours of healthy sleep each night.
“Many people think teens are lazy because they want to sleep in, but in reality, their biological clocks are calling the shots,” continues Dr. Watson.
How are kids impacted by early school start times?
If teens need to be in school and ready to learn by 7:30 am, but their bodies aren’t ready for bed until 11 pm or later, there’s just not enough time for them to get adequate sleep. To add insult to injury, many school districts schedule their busing system to pick up high schoolers first, followed by elementary school kids, causing teens to wake up even earlier to catch the bus.
SleepScore Labs Senior Researcher Dr. Sharon Danoff-Burg adds, “Research has shown that earlier school start times can hinder students’ learning abilities, negatively impact their physical and mental health, and can even impair their safety behind the wheel.1 Research also suggests that later school start times can improve attendance, reduce motor vehicle crashes, and decrease sleepiness in class.”
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 8:30 am as a better school start time, to help reduce some of these effects and allow children and teens to arrive at school refreshed and alert.
How can I help my child get the sleep they need?
Sticking to healthy sleep hygiene is always a great starting point. This can include:
- Keeping a consistent bedtime and implementing a bedtime routine
- Making sure your child has regular activity and sunlight during the day
- Ensuring their bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet
- Reducing screen time in the evening to avoid blue light, which can make them feel too alert in the evening
If you’re looking for a way to gradually adjust their sleep schedule to prepare for going back to school, try getting the kiddos to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night in the weeks leading up to the first day.
What do you think of school start times? Should kids start school a bit later? Tweet us @sleepscore and let us know your thoughts!