Why delaying school start times is the right thing to do: Opinion

Although recently tabled due to practical considerations, the Jefferson County Public Schools’ proposal to delay school opening time is a good policy. It will allow students to sleep longer and to have better quality sleep. In the US, nearly half of middle schools and 73% of high schools do not get adequate sleep (at least nine hours for school-age children and eight hours for teens).

One of the main reasons why many adolescents struggle to get enough sleep is that they tend to have late bedtimes. While things like cellphones, work and psychological stressors can make it difficult for adolescents to fall asleep, their preference for a late bedtime and wake time is also driven by their biology. During puberty, the master clock in the adolescent brain undergoes developmental changes that delay sleep timing up to two hours, irrespective of culture or geography. Their levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, rise later in the evening than during early childhood, so they struggle to fall asleep before 11 pm and therefore, ideally need to wake up around 8 am or after.

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