More than 40% of teen-agers feel tired and sleepy while at school, according to a study by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research. Research has shown that most U.S. teens are not getting the recommended 7 to 10 hours of nightly sleep they need to stay alert the next day and perform well at school. In one study that tracked teen alertness throughout the school day, the majority of teens were tired and foggy in the morning and did not become fully alert until 10 a.m.
To combat such teen fatigue, some school districts are changing starting times and bus schedules. In most school districts, older children begin school earlier than younger ones. High schoolers may have to be at their bus stops as early as 6 a.m. for classes that start between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. In these districts, elementary school students may not start class until 9 a.m. Progressive districts are switching schedules to mirror children’s actual sleep cycles. Teens typically stay up later and, when given the chance, will sleep later. Younger children are early risers. Beginning elementary classes earlier in the day and delaying the start of high school classes seems to benefit both groups by matching their classroom time to the time of day when they are most alert.