A short delay in school start time appears to be associated with significant improvements in adolescent alertness, mood and health
"Beginning at the onset of puberty, adolescents develop as much as a two-hour sleep-wake phase delay (later sleep onset and wake times) relative to sleep-wake cycles in middle childhood," the authors write as background to the study. The study also notes that, "adolescent sleep needs do not decrease dramatically, and optimal sleep amounts remain about nine to 9 1/4 hours per night."
Judith A. Owens, M.D., M.P.H., of the Hasbro Children's Hospital, Providence, and colleagues, studied 201 students in grades 9 through 12 attending an independent high school in Rhode Island. For the purposes of the study, class start time was delayed 30 minutes, from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Additionally, students were required to complete the online retrospective Sleep Habits Survey before and after the change in school start time.
According to the study, after the delayed start time, "students reported significantly more satisfaction with sleep and experienced improved motivation. Daytime sleepiness, fatigue and depressed mood were all reduced. Most health-related variables, including Health Center visits for fatigue-related complaints, and class attendance also improved." The later start was also associated with a significant increase in sleep duration on school nights of 45 minutes as well as a reduction in weekend oversleep (the difference between school day and non-school day wake times).
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