The American Medical Association has recommended that middle and high school students’ days should start later – as late as 8:30 a.m. – in the interests of enabling teens to get more sleep than most currently do. Early class start-times, often early than 7:30 a.m., is a serious contributor to the fact that, rather than getting the 8.5-9.5 they should for their physical and mental health, many teens go to school sleep deprived, affecting both their attention span and their overall ability to comprehend what’s being taught.
The new policy, adopted at AMA’s recent annual meeting in Chicago, also states that doctors need to educate parents, teachers, school officials and others about the importance of sleep for teens’ physical and mental health.
“Sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue affecting our nation’s adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical and emotional distress and disorders,” AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in an association news release.
“Scientific evidence strongly suggests that allowing adolescents more time for sleep at the appropriate hours results in improvements in health, academic performance, behavior, and general well-being,” Kobler said.
Recent research shows that only 32 percent of American teens get at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens aged 14 to 17 should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and learning.
Currently, nearly 10 percent of U.S. high schools start at or before 7:30 a.m., the AMA said.
“We believe delaying school start times will help ensure middle and high school students get enough sleep, and that it will improve the overall mental and physical health of our nation’s young people,” Kobler said.
“While implementing a delayed school start time can be an emotional and potentially stressful issue for school districts, families and members of the community,” Kobler added, “the health benefits for adolescents far outweigh any potential negative consequences.”