FOX 45 Investigates: Should schools start later so teens can get more sleep?

Should schools start later so teens can get enough sleep? (WKEF/WRGT)

MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) -- The Mason City School district is considering a major change for the 2019-2020 school year. The district is currently surveying students, parents, staff and the community on pushing back the start time for the middle and high schools from 7:15 a.m. to at least 8:30 a.m.

"Our start times at 7:15 a.m. for our middle and high school is not aligned with what we know the teen brain needs," Mason City Schools Public Information Officer Tracey Carson said.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which is made up of more than 10,000 medical experts, says middle and high school students should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. In the AASM's position statement, published in April 2017, the academy cites changes teen brains undergo during puberty.

"The sleep cycle is known to shift up to two hours later with the onset of puberty," Maninder Kalra, MD, Medical Director of Sleep Medicine at Dayton Children's Hospital said.

The AASM says because of this shift most teens don't get tired until after 11 p.m. The academy recommends teens get at least eight to ten hours of sleep and, as a result, should sleep until at least 7:30 a.m.

"Insufficient sleep in children and adolescents has been shown to affect their physical health, mental health, increase the risk for automobile accidents and also their academic performance," Dr. Kalra said.

The latest teen brain research is driving Mason City Schools to explore changing their start time.

"One of the best things we can do to prevent anxiety, depression and self-harm is to actually get some sleep," Carson said.

Carson says the school has to take a lot of variables into account in order to make such a drastic change.

"We certainly are looking at the transportation cost. From the standpoint of our students and staff, a lot of it is based on extra-curriculars."

Mason is only through phase one of the surveying process. In the school's preliminary poll, 80 percent of those polled were in favor of a change to the start time.

"For parents to see that a little amount of extra sleep is going to have a tangible benefit, it really resonates with them," Dr. Kalra said. "I look forward to that being a good example for other school systems to follow."

The school district will soon create focus groups with those impacted the most, including athletics and local daycare workers.

Mason City Schools will make a final decision on the start time in January 2019.

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