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Later Start at High School Linked to Student Benefits

Delayed school start associated with more sleep and less sleepiness, fatigue, depressed mood

TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Delaying school start time from 8 to 8:30 a.m. is associated with improvements in mood, alertness, and health among high-school students, according to research published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Judith A. Owens, M.D., of the Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I., and colleagues analyzed data from 201 students from grades nine to 12 in a single high school who were surveyed before and after a two-month trial period in which school start time was delayed from 8 to 8:30 a.m.

The researchers found that after the start time was delayed, students' average school night sleep duration increased by 45 minutes, and their average bedtime on school nights advanced to 18 minutes earlier. The percentage of students who got less than seven hours of sleep decreased by 79.4 percent, and the percentage reporting at least eight hours rose from 16.4 to 54.7 percent. Students also reported less daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and depressed mood but more satisfaction with sleep and increased motivation. Class attendance and most health-related factors -- including visits to a health center for fatigue-related complaints -- improved.

"The article by Owens et al extends the body of research findings that substantiate the positive outcomes when a high school makes a modest shift to a later start time," writes the author of an accompanying editorial. "There is a growing body of evidence that changing the start time for high schools is good for adolescents."

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