Most Teens Want a Later Start to School Days

SUNDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Many American teens believe that starting school later in the morning and giving tests later in the school day would help improve their grades, a new study finds.

Researchers surveyed 280 students at a suburban high school outside of Philadelphia. The students start their school day at 7:30 a.m. and finish at 2:25 p.m. The survey found that:

  • 78 percent of the students said they found it difficult to get up in the morning.
  • Only 16 percent said they felt they got enough sleep.
  • 70 percent said they believed their grades would improve if they had more sleep.
  • 90 percent felt their academic performance would improve if school started later in the morning.
  • Many students said they did not feel alert taking tests during early morning classes and don't think they're at the peak of their academic ability at that time.
  • Most of the teens said the best time to take tests would be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"Teenagers need more sleep than adults [eight to nine hours vs. seven to eight] and their circadian rhythms are phase shifted so that their ideal bedtime is midnight to 1 a.m.; yet they have to get up at 6:30 or earlier for high school," study author Dr. Richard Schwab, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a prepared statement.

High schools should start classes at 8:30 or 8:45 in the morning, he said.

"School systems should be thinking about changing their start times. It would not be easy -- they would have to change the busing system -- but it would increase their students' sleep time and likely improve their school performance," Schwab said.

The study was slated for presentation Sunday at the American Thoracic Society's international conference, in San Francisco.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about teens and sleep.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 20, 2007

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