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Balancing school start times with a child’s sleep needs

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Needing multiple alarms to wake up a tired teen is a bad sign. It’s not just annoying to teenagers (and parents), but it’s also affecting their brain development and safety.

Brains change over the course of a lifetime, but they make significant changes up until the age of 25. Sleep is crucial while an adolescent is growing into a teen who is growing into an adult. Sleep clears out toxins that build up in the brain during the day. It gives the brain time to process information and emotions, and it helps the brain remove unnecessary information.

So if sleep isn’t happening, the brain isn’t working the way it should, making children and teens seem irritable, depressed or anxious. They’re more likely to make bad decisions, attempt suicide or be in car accidents.

Studies show that schools with later start times have seen a decrease in negative behaviors and an increase in GPAs and attendance.

Minnesota is a leader in research around teens, sleep and school start times. Host Angela Davis spoke with two researchers about what sleep means to a developing brain and how school districts and parents juggle that with the need for early start times. Dr. Roxanne Prichard joined her, she is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of St. Thomas. Dr. Michael Howell was also a part of the discussion he is the vice chair for education in the Department of Neurology at the University of Minnesota. He is also the director of the sleep performance training program for athletes at MHealth.

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