The ASA settles the debate over how early is too early for school to start.
In 42 states, the starting bell for middle school and high school rings before 8 am. This requires kids to wake up as early as 5 or 6 am to get dressed, eat breakfast (hopefully), and arrive at school on time and prepared to learn. To get 8 hours of sleep, bedtime would have to be 8 or 9 pm for most kids.
This bedtime might be realistic for kids in elementary school, but how many 11 to 18 year olds do you know that are in bed and asleep by 9? Not many. And how many teens do you know that wake up easily at 6 am?
Let’s pretend the average bedtime is 10 pm. That means middle schoolers and high schoolers are getting 7-8 hours of sleep – MAX. Studies have shown that even one less hour of sleep significantly increases the risk of suicide.
Many parents have expressed concerns about this schedule, suggesting kids may do better in school (and in life) if they got more sleep each night. The value of a full 8-hours of sleep should not be underestimated – health sleep = healthy mind and body.
The American Sleep Association (ASA) is a long-time supporter of later start times for school-age kids. They partner with Start School Later, the official advocate for later start times.
On February 7, 2016, the ASA officially announced their recommendation for school start time:
“Middle school and high school should not start before 8:00. A time closer to 9:00 or later would be preferable.”
They go on to say that “Early school start times and sleep deprivation are associated with weight gain, depression, mood problems, higher blood glucose levels and increased motor vehicle accidents. Later school start time are associated with higher attendance rates, lower depression scores, and more even temperament at home.”
(They did not make recommendations for elementary school, because the data did not reflect the younger age group. Also, as noted above, elementary kids are more likely to get to bed by 8 or 9 pm.)
On August 25, 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended schools postpone starting time until 8:30 or later. As Arnie Duncan (Secretary of Education) put it, “Rested students are ready students.”
Despite these recommendations, it is unknown how many schools have actually shifted their starting bells to a later time.
In the comments below, tell us if your child’s school has changed the schedule in the last year.
Watch this video for more information, including evidence that public health officials have ignored proof that adolescents perform poorly early in the morning to avoid inconveniencing parents, and interviews with young teens who believe sleep is more important than starting school at the crack of dawn.