Do School Start Times Affect Adolescents' Academics and School Behavior?
The present review investigates the effect of sleep on the academic and social aspects of adolescents’ lives. A recent study found that nearly one-fifth of children in a US school district had symptoms of a sleep disorder (Ax & Bradley-Klug, 2007). Recent literature from Cassoff, Knauper, Michaelsen, and Gruber (2012) has found that adolescents need about 9.2 hours of sleep per night, but 61% of those surveyed by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) were not getting the recommended amount of sleep. Similarly, data from actigraphs indicate that sleep decreases to 7.5 – 8 hours of sleep by age 16 compared to 10 hours during pre-adolescence (Crabtree & Williams, 2009). Circadian rhythms are changing in adolescence such that teens naturally fall asleep later and wake later than younger children (Crowley, Acebo, & Carskadon, 2009). The literature suggests that in addition to such biological changes in sleep during adolescence there are also psychological and socio-cultural influences that contribute to the problem of inadequate sleep. For instance, many teens become more independent in determining their bedtimes and other social and academic demands may contribute to later bedtimes (Carskadon, 1990, 2011).
Wolfson and Carskadon (1998) have investigated the impact of school start times on the grades and attendance rates of high school students. They found that students reported better school-related performance when school start times were later (Wolfson & Carskadon, 1998). While biological factors and social tendencies result in later bedtimes for teens, they are required to awake early in the morning on weekdays to attend school. In many school districts, the start time is earlier for high school students than elementary, and thus many teens go to school at a time when their bodies have not full awakened. Overall, this review is intended to examine the literature related to sleep during adolescence, the effects of inadequate sleep, and more specifically highlight studies that have examined the effects of school start time on adolescent academic performance and well-being. This information can help inform school policies and also provide a better awareness of the sleep issues that are prominent in today's society.
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