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Delaying School Start Times Not Only Improves Health, But Also Reduces Crime, Study Finds

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- As students are heading back to school, there is some surprising new research about teens and sleep. Delaying the start of school not only improves health, but new research from Rutgers says it can also reduce crime.

This research from Rutgers University in Camden looks at the connection between sleep and delinquency.

It's been established that delayed school start times can provide a variety of health improvements but the new study says there could be another benefit.

Most teenagers don't get the recommended nine hours of sleep a night. That can lead to problems with concentration, moodiness, and self -control. Early school days get some of the blame.

Science has shown the circadian rhythms of adolescents has them biologically engineered to fall asleep later, and an early school day can rob them of critical sleep time.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC have recommended that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

"Getting more sleep and letting kids sleep in, maybe they're less impulsive or they have greater self-control," said Rutgers researcher Daniel Semenza.

Semenza, who researches juvenile delinquency, says delaying school start times might also help keep kids stay out of trouble.

"The time after school -- 2, 3, 4 o'clock -- has been shown over and over to be a key time for when kids get in trouble. When their socialization is unstructured there might be fewer adults around, they have less set activities in place," Semenza said.

His new research says delaying when school starts gives kids more sleep time, which is needed for physical and psychological development, with the added benefit of reducing the potential for criminal activity and drug abuse.

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"If you set back even a half-hour, hour, those school start times that could actually delay the time students get out and decrease that time for delinquency to take place," Semenza said.

Currently around the Philadelphia region, most schools start at 7:30 a.m., but a few have pushed back the opening bell.

The problem with delaying the start of school is that it would disrupt school bus schedules and interfere with extracurricular activities after school.

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