Last week I shared the research that sleep affects each age range differently. Teens sometimes have it the worst, as only 15 percent of the teenage population in the United States gets an adequate amount of sleep each night. One of the contributing factors to this, aside from hormones and activities keeping the teens up later than others, is the time their respective high school starts each morning. Teens with earlier school start times are more likely to get into vehicle motor accidents than those with an hour, or an hour and a half, later school start time.

Researchers have studied this effect on teenage drivers while on their way to, or even leaving from, their high school. One of these researchers, American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, concluded, “When high school classes begin early in the morning, we ask teens to shine when their biological clock tells them to sleep.” Results of this research show the crash rate for teen drivers during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years was an average of 28 percent higher in Chesterfield County, Va., with a school start time of 7:20 am, than in adjacent Henrico County, Va., with a school start time of 8:45 am. No variations were detected among vehicle crashes of adult drivers from the same counties.

Not only is the crash rate higher for teens with earlier school start times, but the performance levels and overall health of the teenagers seem to also be affected. Another researcher looking at teens and the sleep they need to fully function each day, Dr. Robert Vorona, informed us that, “Insufficient sleep appears to have deleterious consequences such as decrements in mood and increased risk taking, impaired academics and increased crash rates.” It’s worth it to make sure your teenager gets the rest they require, not only for their production throughout the school year, but for their safety as well.