Delaying Middle School and High School Start Times Has Benefits - News Article

Delaying Middle School and High School Start Times Has Benefits

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the school day should begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. for middle school and high school students.

Later start times provide adolescents more time to get sufficient sleep on school nights, optimizing daytime alertness, reducing tardiness and impacting school attendance. Later school start times support peak academic performance, more learning opportunities, better mental health and even enhanced driving safety. 

The AASM recommends teenagers 13-18 years old should get 8-10 hours of sleep on a regular basis to promote optimal health. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 88.4% of high school students report sleeping 7 hours or less on school nights. With after school activities, homework and studying, it can be hard to get to sleep at a decent time. Early start times can shorten their opportunity for a good night's sleep, resulting in chronic sleep loss. 

Short sleep in adolescents is associated with the following:

  • Poor school performance
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular morbidity
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Athletic injuries

For high school students with a driver's license, lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, which account for 35% of all deaths and 73% of deaths from unintentional injury in teenagers. Research suggests that crash rates decline by 16.5% following a school start time delay of 60 minutes.

Delaying middle school and high school start times is associated with a variety of benefits for teen students:

  • Longer total sleep time
  • Reduced daytime sleepiness
  • Increased engagement in class activities
  • Reduced first-hour tardiness and absences
  • Reduced depressive symptoms and irritability
  • Improved reaction time

Other sleep-related factors are involved in ensuring optimal student performance. Maintenance of good sleep quality, appropriate timing and regularity of sleep, and effective treatment of sleep disorders are essential. Teens also should avoid using sleep-disrupting electronic devices near bedtime or during the night.

The AASM is encouraging primary academic institutions, school boards, parents, and policy makers to raise public awareness to promote a national standard of middle school and high school start times of 8:30 a.m. or later. Starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later will help ensure that middle school and high school students begin the day awake, alert, and ready to learn. Read the full statement here.