Wednesday letters: Later school start would aid students

09/03/2014 12:00 AM

09/02/2014 6:07 PM

School has started in South Carolina, and many students are arriving at school sleep deprived.

Adolescents generally need about nine hours of sleep to be healthy; elementary-aged children may need 10 to even 11 hours.

But a 2014 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that only 10 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds and 29 percent of 12- to -14-year-olds sleep nine hours or more each night. It also noted that 56 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds and 29 percent of 12- to 14-year-olds sleep seven hours or less each night and that 31 percent of 6- to11-year-olds sleep eight hours or less each night.

The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes in a recently released policy statement that schools starting before 8:30 a.m. contribute to the insufficient sleep obtained by middle and high school students. Some schools in America and in other countries start school for adolescents at 9 a.m. or later.

Research shows that later starts may benefit students in many ways: better attendance, improved school performance, increased standardized test scores, improved mental health, lower car crash rates and more.

Some may resist starting school later, reasonably citing, for example, the increased logistical challenges of providing transportation or the needs of parents to get to work. However, starting schools later so that students obtain sufficient sleep is a proven way to help them do better and be healthier and safer.

Paul Higgins

Columbia

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