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Later School Start Times May Foster Better Students
Date:7/6/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- High school students at a private school in Rhode Island who started school a half-hour later in the morning were in better moods, more alert, less depressed and more likely to actually attend class than before the time change, a new study shows.

In fact, the experiment was so successful that the school has now permanently shifted its start time from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

"At the end of the experimental period, there was not a single faculty member, student or administrator who wanted to go back to the old start time," said Dr. Judith Owens, lead author of a paper appearing in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

"Mornings are so much more pleasant at my house I can't even begin to tell you," added Owens, whose daughter just graduated from the school and who participated in the experiment. "Many of the faculty members said the same thing: that it improved the quality of their lives as well as the perception that students were just better rested and more ready to start the day."

The study bolsters the evidence that teens have special sleep needs.

"Sleep medicine specialists have long known that delaying high school start times helps teenagers sleep better," said Dr. Heidi V. Connolly, chief of the division of pediatric sleep medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. "Teenagers are biologically programmed to prefer a later bedtime and a later wake-up time so it is not surprising that they struggle with early school start times."

Adolescents' circadian rhythms do shift during puberty. "What that boils down to is that teenagers are not able to fall asleep as early as they did when they were in middle school or elementary school," Owens explained. "There is as much as a two-hour shift in sleep-wake cycles."

But while they may be going to bed later, they sti
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