Classes for teens should start no sooner than 8:30 a.m., according to a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett say Chicago students shouldn’t count on a later school day any time soon.
Both leaders told the Chicago Sun-Times current research on the topic is not conclusive enough to prompt an immediate change to CPS start times.
But the American Academy of Pediatrics cites several studies that show American teens are generally sleep-deprived from after-school programs, work, homework and physical changes. This causes mental and physical health problems, reduced academic performance and an increased risk of traffic accidents.
“The evidence strongly suggests that a too-early start to the school day is a critical contributor to chronic sleep deprivation among American adolescents,” the academy’s recent statement on their recommendation states.
Of 91 CPS high schools, about 58 percent begin at 8 a.m. Only about 5 percent start at or later than 8:30 a.m. The rest start before 8 a.m.
Health risks from teen sleep deprivation can be easily fixed, the pediatricians group says. Pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, FAAP, is the lead author of the new recommendation.
“Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common – and easily fixable – public health issues in the U.S. today,” Judith Owens said in the statement.
Why 8:30 a.m.? Teens’ natural sleep cycles generally put them to bed after 11 p.m., and the academy says teens need 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep. But only 15 percent of U.S. teens start classes after 8:30 a.m. About 40 percent of American high schools start classes before 8 a.m.