Can Delaying School Start Times Benefit Students?

“Exercise in the morning and avoiding bright light in the evening can help promote melatonin secretion”

Boy Sleeping

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - According to a CBS News article, California lawmakers have passed a bill that if signed by the state’s governor would require middle and high schools throughout the state to start no later than 8:30 AM.

The question is; can a later start time, even just thirty minutes; really improve a child’s academics?

Dr. Deepa Burman, MD, Co-Medical Director at the Pediatric Sleep Program at UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh tells the KDKA Radio Afternoon News, “Absolutely.  This is not just a belief, we have a lot of data now that shows that even increasing our total sleep time by as little as thirty minutes can have a positive impact on our day to day functioning.”

“And when we are talking about children, that impact is even stronger.”

Going to sleep thirty minutes early seems like a quick fix, but Dr. Burman explains that it’s not that easy.

“There is data that shows that starting in middle school, our natural biological clock and the chemical melatonin that helps us sleep, isn’t actually secreted until 11 PM, so regardless of when you go to sleep your body will not fall asleep until you are tired or until the melatonin is secreted.”

Dr. Burman adds that technology negatively impacts our sleep.

“Technology tends to keep our children up when they should be sleeping.  And a lot of the devices we use have a blue light which suppresses the melatonin we need to sleep.”

Dr. Burman suggests exercising in the morning and avoiding bright light at night to help promote melatonin secretion earlier.   

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