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Published: Thursday, 3/29/2012

Later start for school might help

BY LAUREN FORCELLA
STRAIGHT TALK FOR TEENS

Dear Straight Talk: I read with interest about the mother who couldn't get her son to sleep before midnight. Sleep deprivation is the norm today. But combining sleep deprivation with teens leads to extra problems because teens are prone to angst, depression, acute crises -- and rash decisions. One in five suicides take place the same day as an acute life crisis and I believe sleep deprivation plays a role. It is biological fact that teens' circadian rhythms are hardwired to stay up later and sleep in later. It would be so much healthier if high school started at 8:30 or 9 to accommodate this. -- Marion, Toledo

Taylor, 15: It would help tremendously. I would feel lucky to get eight or nine hours of sleep. Some teachers and parents agree that starting at 7:35 is too early. Driving to school in the morning, it is still dark. Plus my younger siblings get sleep-deprived, too, because we carpool.

Colin, 18: I dream of a world where high school starts at 8:30-9. This is right up there with legalizing gay marriage and peace in the Middle East.

Nate, 17: A later start time would mean after-school activities might not start until 5. This is too late, especially considering time needed for studying and homework. It would also give students an excuse to stay up later. The sleep problem wouldn't be solved, just moved to a different time slot.

Katelyn, 17: It might just give the excuse to stay up later. When my school has a "late start" day (an hour delay), half my peers are tardy because they stayed up too late.

Justin, 25: I chose the early high school start time (7:15) over the later one (8:15) so I could get out early. I always got at least seven hours of sleep, because I am seriously not happy if I don't get enough sleep.

Dear Marion: I am an avid supporter of later start times for middle and high school. Teens are biologically wired to stay up and rise later. There is almost a two-hour delay in the sleep/wake cycle between adolescence and middle childhood. Teens require 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep a night, but the majority are lucky to get seven because we push them to rise on adult schedules, or worse.

A growing number of schools are turning their clocks back with powerful positive results. A Rhode Island school delayed start times only 30 minutes, from 8 to 8:30. Students were in better moods, more alert, less tardy, more motivated to participate in classes and sports -- and less depressed.

Another study in 2008 of a Kentucky school that pushed start time back one hour, reported a 17 percent reduction in teen car crashes. --Lauren

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