Schoolhouse Beat

Sleep specialists to help Fairfax County (Va.) district create new student schedule

The Fairfax County (Va.) school district has enlisted sleep specialists at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to develop a plan to move high schools’ start time to 8 a.m. or later. Psychiatric News reports that the medical center’s sleep specialists will develop models of how different approaches are likely to affect various groups and prepare options for the school board to consider. The district is seeking changes in light of evidence that students are not getting enough sleep. In a 2011 survey, two-thirds of Fairfax County students in grades 8, 10, and 12 reported sleeping seven hours or less on an average school night. In addition, 17 percent of students in grade 10 and 26 percent in grade 12 said they averaged less than five hours of sleep per night. Biological-rhythm research shows that adolescents are not physiologically ready for sleep until about 11 p.m. Nearly all of Fairfax County’s high schools start at 7:20 a.m.

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