Another wave of research came out this week, highlighting what so many of us already know: Teens need sleep, about 8-8.5 hours a night. And most of them aren’t getting it.
But here’s some brand new data that you might not know about.
Teens get a ton of flack for staying up too late, but get this: When kids hit the teen years, there’s a neurological shift that alters their circadian rhythm to a later sleep time. And a later wake up time, too! Which means, even your best intentions and efforts to get your kids down early may be trumped by the all-powerful teen hormones.
Lately, there’s been a lot said about shifting high school start times to accommodate this biological shift. In fact, some schools have adopted later start times with near-immediate success. At one Massachusetts high school, when first period went from 7:30am to 8:35am, tardiness fell by 35 percent, and grades improved: The number of Ds and Fs dropped by 50%.
Yet more research suggests that teens getting enough sleep doesn’t just boost grades and school attendance — it can also save their lives. A recently published study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that when teens aren’t getting enough sleep (less than seven hours a night), they’re more likely to engage in high-risk activities: Texting while driving, not wearing a seat belt while in a car or a helmet while on a bike. Teens who got sufficient sleep we far less likely to engage in such behaviors.
And yet, with all of this research, later high-school start times are still the exception, not the rule. Less than 20% of US high schools start at 8:30, while more than 80% start earlier. Right now, the most common start time for US high schools is before 8am (42%), while 10% have first period before 7:30am.
We’re calling the latest research a serious wake up call for schools to focus on well-rested students.