Is it time to start the school day later?
Studies by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine should serve as a wake-up call for both parents and school officials. They echo calls by some parents in our area for public education officials to rethink school scheduling.
In more than a few schools, teenagers and even younger children are expected to be ready to learn before 8 a.m. on school days. AASM scientists say that may be unrealistic.
Studies indicate boys and girls from 13-18 years of age should sleep 8-10 hours a night, on average, according to information released a few days ago by the AASM.
But more than two-thirds of high school students report sleeping seven hours or less on school nights, the organization adds.
That can affect adolescents in many ways. According to the AASM, not getting enough sleep can result in:
— Poor performance in school.
– Increased susceptibility to athletic injuries.
– Increased likelihood of depression, sometimes leading to thoughts of suicide.
– General health problems, including metabolic dysfunction.
Ensuring children get enough sleep is the responsibility of parents, of course. School officials often note that if parents would just get students to bed earlier, what time classes begin would not matter.
Some parents take that duty very seriously. They mandate early bed times and take steps to make it easier for children to get to sleep. Such action can include ensuring the children’s bedroom environments invite sleep and being certain potential distractions such as television and cellphones or tablets are not available.
But many parents do not police children’s bedtimes.
Schools work to overcome a variety of challenges at home. Serving free breakfasts to all students is an example.
Why, then, should school officials not take another look at whether classes should begin later in the day? There is ample evidence, after all, that more sleep time helps academic performance. Isn’t that the idea for educators?