COVID-19 not just pushing schools to open later in the Fall, but later in the morning
(Annapolis, MD) Back-to-school and COVID-19 are colliding this year. Some schools are teaching online, some in-person, and some are using a hybrid model. Many middle and high schools especially are choosing to delay classes to 8:30 a.m. or later as recommended by healthcare professionals and scientists.
"Changes that once seemed unimaginable and impossible are suddenly imaginable and possible," says Terra Ziporyn Snider, PhD, Start School Later's Executive Director and Co-Founder. "We keep hearing about districts that are moving to schedules that give students a shot at healthy sleep, both during the pandemic and beyond."
During puberty, adolescents are biologically programmed to fall asleep 2-3 hours later than children and adults, and to wake later in the morning. Many find it difficult to fall asleep before 11 p.m. or to wake before 8 a.m.
“Even in typical years, common excuses for not starting class when teens are awake and ready to learn are almost always resolvable,” says Snider. “But now these excuses--which include school buses and after-school activities--are gone.”
Unfortunately, not all schools are taking advantage of this unique school year to schedule learning better aligned with adolescent biology. “If you see a ‘teenage monster’ return to your home when the school year starts,” warns retired pediatrician Max Van Gilder, MD, Start School Later statewide coordinator for New York, “ that monster is a normal teen who is sleep deprived, and the reason they are sleep deprived is because of early start times.”
Recent research from Seattle aligns with dozens of other studies showing that when school start times move later in the morning, teens don’t stay up later staring at their devices as some skeptics predicted; instead, they actually get more sleep. One 2020 study suggests students are sleeping more during the pandemic, and parents report that their kids are happier, more communicative, and less moody.
Because most U.S. students are not returning to in-person school full-time this year, there is an unique opportunity to let teens sleep according to their unique circadian rhythms (body clocks). The American Academy of Pediatrics , American Medical Association , CDC (CDC infographic ), National PTA and many other medical and scientific and education experts agree that adolescents aren’t ready to learn at the early-morning hours required by most U.S. school districts, and that requiring attendance before 8:30 a.m. is unsafe and unhealthy.
“Adequate sleep – along with good nutrition and regular exercise – is the foundation of a healthy body and mind,” says Snider. “During this pandemic, helping ensure teens have strong immune systems and resilient emotional health is more important than ever.”
# # #
Start School Later is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to ensure school start times compatible with health, safety, education, and equity. Visit their website at: http://www.startschoollater.net
Start School Later, Inc.