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Later Start to School Day Can Lead to Happier, Healthier Teens

Pushing back school start time by just 30 minutes has been shown to improve alertness, mood and health in teenagers, according to a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Pushing back school start time by just 30 minutes has been linked to significant improvements in adolescent alertness, mood and health, according to a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

A group of 201 high school students in Rhode Island were observed by Judith A. Owens, M.D., M.P.H., of the Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, and colleagues; and were asked to complete an online retrospective Sleep Habits Survey before and after school start times were changed from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Researchers reported that after the start time delay, mean school night sleep duration increased by 45 minutes, and average bedtime advanced by 18 minutes. The percentage of students getting less than seven hours of sleep decreased by 79.4%, and the percentage of those reporting at least eight hours of sleep rose from 16.4% to 54.7%.

Furthermore, “students reported significantly more satisfaction with sleep and experienced improved motivation,” Owens and colleagues noted. Daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and depressed mood were reduced, and several variables such as health center visits for fatigue-related complaints and class attendance also improved.

These findings, said researchers, “support the potential benefits of adjusting school schedules to adolescents’ sleep needs, circadian rhythm, and developmental stage.”