Students may benefit from later start time

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Students may benefit from later start time

Giving teenagers 30 extra minutes to start their school day leads to more alertness in class, better moods, less tardiness and even better breakfasts, a small study found.

The results appear in July's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results mirror those at a few schools that have delayed starting times more than half an hour.

Researchers say there's a reason even 30 minutes can make a big difference. Teens tend to be in their deepest sleep around dawn -- when they typically need to arise for school. Interrupting that sleep can leave them groggy because they also tend to have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m.

"There's biological science to this that I think provides compelling evidence as to why this makes sense," said Brown University sleep researcher Judith Owens, the study's lead author and a pediatrician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.

An Archives editorial said the study adds to "a growing body of evidence that changing the start time for high schools is good for adolescents."

In the study, which was done at a private Rhode Island boarding school, starting times were shifted from 8 to 8:30 a.m. All class times were cut five to 10 minutes to avoid a longer school day that would interfere with after-school activities. Improvements in student alertness made up for that lost instruction time, a school official said.

The study was designed to examine changes in sleep habits and behavior and did not track academic performance. It also lacked a control group of students who didn't experience a change in school start times -- another limitation.

-- Associated Press


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