Dear high schools, please start later and let my teen sleep!

Tired, frustrated student at work in classroom

Dear high schools, please start later and let my teen sleep!

Health and Safety

Dear high schools, please start later and let my teen sleep!


USA Today published an opinion column today from a behavioral and social scientist, who said teenagers need more sleep.

I think most parents would probably agree.

Between the snoozing of phone alarms and dozing off in the passenger seat on the way to school in the morning, it seems as though teens are always exhausted.

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Troxel says many will argue that tired teens are simply a product of “bad parenting,” — i.e, lax bedtime enforcement, allowing kids to stay up too late on their phones or devices, etc.

But in her USA Today piece, Troxel argues this is actually not the case.

Biology plays a role in teens’ fatigue

“During adolescence, the release of the hormone melatonin, which signals sleep onset, is shifted about two hours later than what we see in adults or younger children — effectively causing a biological predisposition towards later bed times and later wake-up times during the adolescent years,” Troxel writes.

So basically:

Your teenager isn’t just trying to spite you when they ignore your demands they go to bed. They really do struggle to get to bed… apparently.

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Doctors agree later school start times would be beneficial

That’s why, Troxel says, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other major medical organizations recommend that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.”

Starting earlier puts teens at risk for sleep deprivation.

So the next time you’re talking about this to other parents, teachers and school leaders? Don’t let them argue that it’s solely about moms and dads enforcing strict bedtime rules.

Credit: Giphy

Yes, parents must stay on top of their teens’ sleep times. They should also manage their technology use.

Credit: Giphy

But perhaps schools need to more seriously discuss later school start times.


Wendy M. Troxel is a senior behavioral and social scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Follow her on Twitter: @wendytroxel

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