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Sleep for Success: Later High School Start Times Benefit Student Success

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It’s early on a weekday morning, so early that the streets are still filled with darkness. You walk into your teen’s room. The alarm is buzzing. You reach over to turn it off while attempting to wake him or her. You wonder why this is such a daily struggle, and why your lazy child can’t ever seem to wake up on time for school.

What you may not realize is that your child is not lazy at all. In most cases your teen is just not getting enough sleep. Now, schools across America are recognizing this, and starting to take action accordingly.

The push for later high school start times

There is a movement to change high school start times to 30 minutes later, a notion supported by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. When you look at the neuroscience behind sleep patterns and teens in particular, you can see why pushing school start times back by a mere 30 minutes can give teens the best opportunity for a positive and successful school experience -- and so much more.

Understanding teen sleep patterns

Science has long known that teens have a different biological clock than adults. Though adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep, teens - whose bodies are still growing - need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours each night. Their circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep hormone melatonin, directs them to a later bedtime and awakening.

When teens get enough sleep, the benefits are bountiful:

• Sleep restores the brain and metabolism, while helping memory, learning, and emotional balance.

• Sleep has been known to help stave off depression, erratic behavior, truancy, absenteeism, impaired cognitive function, obesity, and even car accidents.

• Sleep helps students have better focus, impulse control, homework results, improved attendance, concentration, sociability, and alertness during the day.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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