Just in time for the start of school, the AAP recommends later start times for middle and high school. The recommendations have been discussed for some time, with various studies, but now the statement is firm: Kids in middle school and high school need more sleep.
The recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later. They draw on research that confirms teenagers’ need for 8½ to 9½ hours of sleep. There is considerable evidence that delaying school start times is an effective way to mitigate the detrimental effects of chronic sleep loss.
En route to her first day of ninth grade Friday, Ahmani Johnson said she was excited to begin high school however she was annoyed that she had to wake up so early.
This past school year Ahmani, 14, was used to rising at 6:45 every morning and catching a yellow school bus near her home in the Hill District in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Now, with the help of a new alarm clock, she gets up about 5 a.m. and takes a Port Authority bus to Downtown so she can get to Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 by 7:30 a.m., about an hour earlier than she had to be there last year.
Middle and high school start times vary significantly across the region, from 7:11 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. just among Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The pediatricians’ policy statement, four years in the making, builds on a growing body of evidence that has reached a tipping point, said lead author Judy Owens, a sleep medicine specialist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” she said. “If they have to board a bus at 5:45 a.m. for a 7:20 a.m. start time, as many of them do, that simply does not in any way, shape or form allow them to get the sleep that they need.”
She said lack of sleep hurts student health, safety and performance.