Wisconsin News

Study: More sleep equals better grades for teens

Study shows high schools starting after 8:30 A.M. means better test scores, fewer accidents

More sleep equals better grades for teens

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Sleeping in is benefiting high school students according to a new study released by the University of Minnesota. The study finds that high schools starting after 8:30 a.m. are performing better in the classroom.

The study is the first to clearly link high school students performing better in school to later morning start times. It finds that high schoolers getting a little extra sleep have higher test scores, better grades, and are in fewer car accidents. La Crosse High Schools have already pushed their start times back a bit, but say it's a tough balancing act.

At Logan High School, students start their day at 8:15 a.m.

But senior Anna Welch says with work, school and sports getting a good night's sleep isn't always easy.

"I try to get in eight hours if I can, so starting a little later would definitely make that easier," Welch said.

Welch said sometimes when it gets late, sleep wins over her AP homework.

"Sometimes its kind of a decision on which grade can be compromised or which assignment I can maybe put off a little bit longer and get done during a study hall," Welch said.

A pediatric neurologist from Gundersen says teenagers need about eight and a half to nine hours of sleep a night to be at peak performance.

But the study found that only 34 percent of students reach that.

"So what happens is that teenagers generally push the envelope going to bed later and later as they can and they build up a sleep debt through the week because they've had inadequate sleep all that time and then try and sleep it off or catch up on the weekends which never really works," Dr. John-Peter Temple, pediatric neurologist at Gundersen Health, said.

The La Crosse school district has looked into starting later, but the cost of transportation was too high.

"Its a large expenditure for the school district so its something that we would want to look at but it's very intricate and very complicated," Janet Rosseter, executive director of business services for the La Crosse School District, said.

The district said school start times is something they look at each year.

"We have to be mindful of everything that happens after school. Our children are really busy. We've got students who are really active whether its co-circulars or service to their church organization or working in a local business. Well into the evening their busy," Troy Harcey, associate superintendent for the La Crosse School District said.

"A little bit later in the day allows you to wake up better and get a full breakfast in and make sure you're ready to start your day with a clear mind instead of just trying to blink your eyes open just to stay awake," Welch said.

The study also found that schools starting after 8:30 a.m. saw lower rates of depression, fewer absences and tardiness, and less substance abuse. It also reported that car crashes for 16-18 year olds decreased by 70 percent when a school moved from a 7:35 a.m. start to an 8:55 a.m. start.

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