NZ researchers discuss late school start times to let teens sleep more

New Zealand researchers are discussing the necessity of using late school start times to help teen sleep issues.

Later school start times could help teens in New Zealand get more sleep and improve their health and wellbeing, according to an opinion piece in the New Zealand Medical Journal published on Friday.

Many teens in New Zealand do not get enough sleep, exacerbated by school start times that force them to wake earlier than they are programmed to, the article said, authored by researchers from the University of Otago, Massey University and other academies.

Researchers pointed out that adolescents’ natural sleep-wake biology shifts at puberty to favour later bedtimes, meaning they naturally need to wake later in the morning, and it does not change again until approximately age 21.

They argued that a later school start time, such as no earlier than 9.45 a.m. every day for senior secondary school students, is “an attractive, non-stigmatising approach to address adolescent sleep issues”.

Increased sleep also has the potential to favourably impact multiple areas of adolesce health and wellbeing, as well as school success, and is backed up by considerable published research on the issue from both here and overseas, said the authors.

However, the authors are acutely aware that later school start times for senior students would impact many people and organisations in many ways, and therefore they also need to hear the opinions of many key stakeholders as to what might help or hinder schools considering shifting to later starts.

They are carrying out surveys for teens, parents, and teachers to find out their opinions on later starts.

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