Seattle Delays School Start Times to Help Improve Children’s Health

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children’s healthResearch suggests that waking up too early for school can damage children’s health. Now, the Seattle School Board is taking the lead by delaying school start times to allow children to get more sleep.

The Seattle School Board voted 6-1 on Wednesday to delay school start times. High schools will now start at 8:45 a.m., while some middle schools and elementary schools will also start at a later time. The remaining schools will begin at either 7:55 a.m. or 9:35 a.m.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended that schools begin after 8:30 a.m., to allow children to have 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. However, the move from the Seattle School Board marks the first time a school district of this size followed the recommendations.

“We will become the largest district in the country to make this switch, and hopefully we will set a trend,” said Board Director Sharon Peaslee. “This is a historic moment.”

Previous research shows that pushing back school start times can lead to improved performance and test scores in a wide variety of subjects. Researchers also found that substance abuse, mental illness, and tardiness were less likely when students were allowed more time to sleep in.

Mary Carskadon, a researcher with Brown University, recently conducted a study and discovered that earlier start times did not have an effect on when children went to sleep. Rather, making children wake up earlier only resulted in them missing out on the recommended amount of sleep they should be getting. The children suffered with symptoms of sleep deprivation.

The results of the study, as well as other research, suggests that children and teenagers have different sleeping patterns than adults. They have more trouble than adults falling asleep earlier and need more sleep.

While it is often suggested that adults receive at least seven hours of sleep each night, it is typically recommended that children get 8.5 hours.

However, early school start times make it difficult for children and teenagers to get the sleep they are supposed to. A recent CDC study found that less than one third of high school students got the recommended amount of sleep.

With the new decision, the Seattle School Board intends to help change these figures. However, the 8:45 a.m. start time still falls short of the time suggested in a recent study published by academic publisher Taylor & Francis. According to study results, teenagers should begin school after 10:00 a.m.

However, the Seattle School Board hopes this will be the first step in a wider movement across the U.S., with more schools across the country following their lead. “We will unleash a torrent of public schools shifting to bell times that make sense for students,” said Peaslee.

According to data from the CDC, the average start time for middle schools and high schools in the U.S. is 8:03 a.m.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Current school start times damaging learning and health of children,” ScienceDaily web site, September 4, 2015;
Brand, N., “Seattle School Board approves later school start times,” King 5 News web site, November 18, 2015;
Klein, R., “Seattle Board Approves Later School Start Times in ‘Historic’ Vote,” The Huffington Post web site, November 19, 2015;
Richmond, E., “Why School Should Start Later in the Morning,” The Atlantic web site, August 17, 2015;