School Start Times Affecting Kid's Health

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To make sure kids are getting enough sleep to succeed, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

More than 75 percent of North Dakota Schools are on board with the CDC's Recommendation of starting school after the average start time of 8:03 a.m.

Mandan High School kids start even later at 8:40 am. Mandan High School Principal Mark Andresen says less than 5 percent of his students are late in the morning.

"We see more of our tardies actually at the middle of the day coming back from lunch then we do in the mornings," said Andresen.

In 2002 Century High School made the switch choosing to start at 8:20

CHS Principal Steve Madler said, "When we went to that later start time we weren't having near the number of issues with tardiness or even transportation issues."

Madler says traffic is less congested later in the morning. He also says the later start time doesn't affect sports or extracurricular activities. The lack of space and facilities is what is forcing practice times to be later.

"It's not uncommon for some practices to take place at 9 - 10 o'clock at night which is far later then we want kids to be participating in activities," said Madler.

With a later start time at Bismarck-Mandan area schools, why are teens still struggling to wake up?

"I think there's a lot of stimulation in kid's lives now. Far much more than it was when I grew up," said Madler. "Teens are spending way to much time on their cell phones and other technology and that's why they're losing sleep."

Andresen said, "A lot of kids if parents don't take their phone away at night will sit up, 1 - 2, in the morning playing games or texting friends and they're always interrupted and they just don't sleep."

Insufficient sleep is a common problem among high school students. But the CDC reports not getting 8.5 to 9.5 hours is associated with several health risks such as being overweight, using drugs and alcohol and poor academic performance.

"You've gotta be proactive as an adult, sometimes as a parent we're too trusting," said Andresen.

Andresen says unplugging early and setting rules before school starts is a great way to prepare for the school year.

One way you can help your children is by practicing good sleep habits. Set a consistent bedtime and wake up time, including weekends, for the whole family.