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Starting School Later in the Morning Helps Teens Get Their Homework Done

Sleep and overall well-being for teens also improve

It’s Monday morning and your teenage son or daughter stumbles to the breakfast table like a grumpy zombie.

It’s not their fault — blame biology.

As kids hit puberty, their bodies go through a host of changes, including those that affect their sleep schedule. Not only do teens need more sleep in general, but their sleep cycles also shift later, which means waking up later.

Unfortunately, one thing that doesn’t change with them is the school day.

So, while your teen can likely sleep until 8 or 9 in the morning, the first school bell is usually ringing well before then.

But research increasingly suggests that starting school later in the day — adjusting start times by as much as an hour — can have significant positive effects on teens, from their brains to their bodies.

Preliminary findings from a new study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that delaying school start times for middle school and high school students led not only to longer periods of sleep, but increased academic engagement.

What the study found

The study took place in the fall of 2017 and included more than 15,000 students in grades 6-11 from the Cherry Creek School District in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

School officials voluntarily delayed school start times by 50 minutes for middle school students (pushing the start time from 8 AM to 8:50 AM) and 70 minutes for high school students (7:10 AM to 8:20 AM).

“Healthy school start times (8:30 or later for middle and high school students) is critical to help students obtain sufficient sleep, which is essential for all aspects of health, well-being, and learning,” the study’s principal investigator Lisa J. Meltzer, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at National Jewish Health, told Healthline in an email.

“Sufficient sleep is related to better mood, improved cognitive function, and better academic outcomes,” she added.

Participating students completed online surveys, answering questions about bedtime, wake time, total sleep hours, sleepiness while doing homework, and academic engagement.

Researchers found that the benefits of starting school later were manifold:

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