School Start Time and Sleep

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"Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," said Ben Franklin. But does this adage apply to teens? Research in the 1990s found that later sleep and wake patterns among adolescents are biologically determined; the natural tendency for teenagers is to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning. This research indicates that school bells that ring as early as 7:00 a.m. in many parts of the country stand in stark contrast with adolescents' sleep patterns and needs.

Evidence suggests that teenagers are indeed seriously sleep deprived. A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 60% of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day, according to their parents, and 15% said they fell asleep at school during the year.

On April 2 of 1999, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), introduced a congressional resolution to encourage schools and school districts to reconsider early morning start times to be more in sync with teens' biological makeup. House Congressional Resolution 135 or the "ZZZ's to A’s" Act would encourage individual schools and school districts all over the country to move school start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

"I hope this is a wake up call to school districts and parents all over this country," said Lofgren. "With early school start times, some before 7:00 a.m., adolescents are not getting enough sleep.

"Over time, sleep deprivation leads to serious consequences for academic achievement, social behavior, and the health and safety of our nation's youth," the Congresswoman added. "We must encourage schools to push back their start times to at least 8:30 a.m. — a schedule more in tune with adolescents' biological sleep and wake patterns and more closely resembling the adult work day."

POLL DATA:

In fact, public opinion seems to side with Lofgren's "Zzz's to A's" resolution. According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2002 Sleep in America poll, 80% of respondents said high schools should start no earlier than 8:00 a.m. each day; nearly one-half of these respondents (47%) said start times should