Teenagers who start school early are more at risk of suffering from depression, a study has said.
Pupils who begin lessons before 8.30am are more susceptible to anxiety and depression because of sleep deprivation, according to scientists.
The research, carried out by the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, claimed that school start times may have a ‘critical impact on adolescent sleep and daily functioning’.
The study was published in the Sleep Health journal.
Clinical assistant professor in psychiatry, Jack Peltz, said: ‘Our study is consistent with a growing body of research demonstrating the close connection between sleep hygiene and adolescent mental health.
‘But ours is the first to really look at how school start times affect sleep quality, even when a teen is doing everything else right to get a good night’s sleep.
‘While there are other variables that need to be explored, our findings show that earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens.’
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The study said that nine out of ten high school pupils in the US get insufficient sleep on school nights, or barely meet the required eight to ten hours of sleep.
Researchers looked at 197 students across the US and their sleep patterns, then separated them into two groups; those who started school before 8.30am and those who started after that time.
The students were asked to keep a sleep diary for seven days to record their sleep quality and length and whether or not they suffered anxiety or depression.
The results showed that students who started school earlier were more likely to experience depression or anxiety.
‘Our results suggest that good sleep hygiene practices are advantageous to students no matter when they go to school,’ said Dr Peltz.
‘Maintaining a consistent bedtime, getting between eight and ten hours of sleep, limiting caffeine, turning off the TV, cell phone and video games before bed… these efforts will all benefit their quality of sleep and mental health.
‘However, the fact that school start times showed a moderating effect on mental health symptoms, suggests that better sleep hygiene combined with later school start times would yield better outcomes.
‘If we don’t sleep, eventually we will die… our brains will cease to function. At the end of the day, sleep is fundamental to our survival.
‘But if you have to cram for a test or have an important paper due, it’s one of the first things to go by the wayside, although that shouldn’t be.’