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Later school starts linked to better teen grades

By Silke Schmidt ~ ScienceNews for Students ~

Low-income students also may find it easier to get to school, the new data show

If you think school starts too early in the day, you’re not alone. Experts have long argued for later start times in middle and high school. A new study used activity trackers worn on the wrist to see how such a delay affected kids in a real school. And it showed kids slept more, got better grades and missed fewer days of class when their school day started somewhat later.

Adolescents are different from younger kids. Most don’t feel ready for bed until after 10:30 p.m. That’s because puberty shifts everyone’s circadian (Sur-KAY-dee-uhn) rhythms. These are the 24-hour cycles our bodies naturally follow. Among their tasks: They help regulate when we fall asleep and when we waken.

The shift in our body clocks may not be as obvious as puberty’s physical changes. But it’s just as important.

The shift is related to melatonin (Mel-uh-TONE-in), the hormone that helps us fall asleep. “When puberty begins, a teenager’s body doesn’t secrete that hormone until later in the evening,” notes Kyla Wahlstrom. She is an expert on human development and education at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

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