NJAAP Task Force on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Times
Call to Action:
Consider Delaying School Start Times for Virtual and/or Hybrid Learning
The NJAAP Task Force on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Times is committed to promoting the physical and mental health and well-being of students and supports efforts to delay middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later in alignment with the National AAP Policy Statement, School Start Times for Adolescents. As your school district continues to phase in reopening plans for the 2020-2021 school year, we urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to delay your middle school and high school start times for virtual and/or hybrid learning. Even a small change can have a big impact and positive benefits and can lead to more permanent changes in the future. 

Research has resoundingly and repeatedly supported that later start times lead to increased sleep for teenagers. Many families experienced this firsthand when their school schedules changed this past spring due to the pandemic. With a schedule that more closely aligns with a teenager's inherent biological wake cycle, students experience multiple benefits from their increased sleep: 
  • Increased academic achievement
  • Improved mental and physical health
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Reduction in automobile accidents
  • Decrease in risk taking behaviors
  • Reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression
This past decade has seen a tremendous rise in mental health issues and suicidal ideation and behavior in teenagers throughout the country. The global pandemic has only heightened the concern that this trend will increase even further. Improving sleep has been shown to help combat this and can be successfully achieved by school policies that delay school start times for teens.
Remote learning is a great opportunity to pilot a later start time since many typical obstacles are not relevant. We urge you to implement healthy school hours for any duration that your school is in a virtual learning environment. 
During this time it is important to observe and document the positive impacts increased sleep has on students’ readiness to engage in learning as well as the benefits for teachers. It is also important to survey students, teachers and parents to capture their thoughts on a later start time and its benefits. Questions might include topics such as:
  • Asking students what their bedtime and wake times were
  • Asking students to assess if they were getting more, less or the same amount of sleep as when they had in person school and if there were changes, to estimate the amount of change
  • Asking students to rate on a scale of 1-10 how awake they felt during school
  • Asking students if later start times had a positive, negative, or no impact on their physical and emotional health
  • Asking parents to report on their perspective on the same questions asked to the students
  • Asking teachers to reflect on the appearance, engagement and performance of students with shifting start times
  • Asking teachers to reflect on their own experiences & thoughts on how a later start time impacts their remote teaching and home life

Teenagers are facing an increasingly complicated world. School leaders and parents have a responsibility to create policies that can create the best possible environments for these teenagers to learn, to grow and to be safe. We know the data supports the positive effects of delaying school start times for teenagers. This pandemic has shown us that we can find a way to make huge changes in a short period. We urge you to keep sleep and school start times at the forefront of your discussions as you consider the future of education in your district.

Bert Mandelbaum, MD, FAAP, Princeton Nassau Pediatrics
Chair, The Task Force on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Times
Jessica Baxter, MA, 
Princeton High School

Lynn Benson, MSW, LSW, 
Unleash IQ with EQ

Sari Bentsianov, MD, 
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Marcela Betzer, MPH, 
NJ Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Jennie Blakney, MA, Ed, 
NJ Department of Health

Lorraine Borek, MSN, MEd, RN, CSN, 
NJ State School Nurses Association

Katherine Dalsgaard, PhD, ABPP, 
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

Meg Fisher, MD, FAAP, 
Unterberg Children’s Hospital
at Monmouth Medical Center
Brittany Johnson, MPH, 
NJ Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Jessica Levitt, 
Parent Advocate

Tony Maselli, 
NJ State Interscholastic Athletic Association

Sajana Patel, MPH, 
NJ Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

Anne Robinson, MD

Arvinth Sethuraman,
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Deborah Steinbaum, MD, MPH, FAAP, 
PediatriCare Associates

Rochelle Zozula, PhD, D-ABSM, 
Sleep Services International, LLC