School Start Time and Sleep

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no earlier than 8:00 a.m. each day; nearly one-half of these respondents (47%) said start times should be between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. Only 17% of those polled said high school classes should begin before 8:00 a.m.

Effects

A University of Minnesota study demonstrates the impact of pushing back school start times. After the Minneapolis Public School District changed the starting times of seven high schools from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., the study investigated the impact of later start times on student performance, and the results are encouraging. It found that students benefited by obtaining five or more extra hours of sleep per week.

It also found improvement in attendance and enrollment rates, increased daytime alertness, and decreased student-reported depression. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adolescents get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, however, few actually get that much sleep.

Even with compelling research, changing school start times can be challenging for school districts. Administrators have to delay busing schedules. Coaches worry about scheduling practices and many parents rely on the current start times for reasons such as childcare or carpools.

Students are concerned that being in school later in the day means that it will cut into after-school jobs and other extracurricular activities. Still, there are convincing reasons to push back school start times. There are several advantages for teens to get the sleep they need:

  • less likelihood of experiencing depressed moods;
  • reduced likelihood for tardiness;
  • reduced absenteeism;
  • better grades;
  • reduced risk of drowsy driving; and
  • reduced risk of metabolic and nutritional deficits associated with insufficient sleep, including obesity.

With the resumption of school classes in the fall, start times are likely to remain a hot topic. Thus far, individual schools or districts in 19 states have pushed back their start times, and more than 100 school districts in an additional 17 states are considering delaying their start times.

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