BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - New research published late last year tracked teens using Fitbit-like devices and found students who started school later slept more, got better grades, and missed fewer days of classes.
“If you’re trying to learn, and we set that before you’re even awake, how much learning is really being accomplished?” asks UAB Sleep Study expert Dr. Justin Thomas.
Dr. Thomas says as middle and high school students enter puberty, their Circadian rhythms change, making them want to go to bed and wake up later. They need more sleep, between 8-10 hours.
“Most in that age group are pretty significantly sleep-deprived, even more so than adults,” Dr. Thomas says. “If there’s a child who’s 14-15 years old getting the same amount of sleep as their parents, they’re probably more sleep-deprived than their parents.”
How late are we talking?
“I think starting school at 9 or 9:30, tough from a society standpoint but from a learning standpoint that’s going to be best for students,” Dr. Thomas advises. “As for end times, I don’t think you have to push it that late if you’re more efficient.”
That’s easier said than done for school systems trying to balance bus routes and traffic patterns for multiple campuses.
Seattle’s school system pushed their start times back 2 years ago. Of the major Birmingham and Tuscaloosa-area school systems we surveyed, most were aware of this new research but have no plans to consider changing their start times and only Birmingham City schools has even put the question to parents as part of their recent rezoning survey.
Dr. Thomas understands the power of keeping the current routine, but "If we want our children to be at their best in terms of mental and physical health, be learning, avoiding accidents I think all of those things would be really helpful, and we would just as a society have to accommodate that. "