Backgrounder: Later School Start Times
more actual conversations and connecting time in the morning.
Middle school students, many of whom are entering puberty and experiencing changes to their sleep patterns, have also benefited from later start times (Wolfson et al., 2007). In a study comparing 7th and 8th graders at two different schools—one starting at 7:15 am, the other starting at 8:37 am—the students who started school earlier reported inadequate sleep and struggling to stay awake in school more often than the students who started later. While there was no difference in weekend sleep patterns between the students at the two schools, the students who started school later reported sleeping an hour longer on school nights than those with early start times. This difference was due to later rise times; there was no difference in bed times. Academic benefits were also apparent, as students whose school started earlier were tardy four times more often, and 8th grade transcripts showed significantly worse grades. These results occurred in the fall following the start time change, and these findings were replicated in the spring. Although students at both schools were not getting enough sleep, the negative effects of sleep deprivation were far more pronounced in the earlier starting school.
KENTUCKY (1998): PREVENTING DROWSY DRIVING CRASHES
Other school districts have focused on improved safety as a successful outcome of later start times. In fall 1998, a school district in Fayette County, Kentucky moved its start time from 7:30 am to 8:30 am, and students averaged up to 50 minutes more sleep per night. Comparisons in the collision rates of Fayette County teens revealed that the crash rate for 16-18 year olds dropped following the change, even while crash rates for 17-18 year olds actually rose in the rest of the state.
This finding is especially important considering data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which estimates that up to 100,000 police-reported crashes annually are related to drowsiness, and that among drivers age 15-24, more than 1,500 fatalities each year are associated with such crashes. In a North Carolina state study, 55% of fall asleep crashes involved