How Would Later School Start Times Affect Sleep? A Must Read Update 05/2024

Teenagers and their parents may find it difficult to get out of bed on weekday mornings. Many teenagers choose to sleep in rather than get up early in the morning to make it to class on time. Since young people’s minds and bodies are in the process of developing, it’s only natural that they desire more sleep.

Experts estimate that adolescents require between eight and ten hours of sleep per night to function properly. Nearly 60% of middle kids and 71% of high schoolers aren’t getting enough sleep.

Poor academic performance can be caused by a lack of sleep. It can also lead to obesity, diabetes, and mental health difficulties in the long term.

It’s possible that early school start times are a contributing factor. Late start times for middle and high schools have been endorsed by expert groups as a means of increasing sleep time for teenagers while also enhancing school safety and academic performance. Talk about school start times in the United States, how early start times affect students, and the benefits and drawbacks of later start times are all discussed.

What Time Do Schools Start Now?

Classes at the average American public high school begin at eight o’clock in the morning, according to recent data.

School start hours are beginning to reflect the importance of a good night’s sleep for teenagers, according to guidelines from health experts. However, school timetables in different parts of the country do not necessarily follow the most recent recommendations.
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School should begin at 8:30 a.m. or later, according to a 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation. While most high schools and middle schools began before 8:30 a.m. in the U.S. that year, a CDC investigation found that this was not the case in other countries. As of 2018, more than 40% of all public high schools in the United States were starting before 8 a.m.

Depending on the school, start times can vary greatly. Starting times are later in smaller high schools compared to larger ones, and rural high schools start later than those in urban areas. States also have different starting times. Louisiana’s average high school start time is 7:30 a.m., while the District of Columbia’s is 8:41 a.m.

Changes in public health recommendations can take a long time to reflect in policy. Medical professionals’ advice is starting to be taken into consideration by certain state legislatures, though. Students in high school and middle school will no longer be allowed to start their first period lessons before 8:30 a.m. in California, which was passed by the state legislature in 2019.

How Do School Start Times Impact Students?

Sleep deprivation is a greater issue for children and teenagers than adults. The rigors of modern life, including daily homework assignments, sports and other extra-curricular activities, part-time employment, social commitments, and more, can cut into school-aged children’s sleep time.

Pre-teens and teens are more likely to have sleep deprivation due to school starting earlier. Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep might suffer from a wide range of negative consequences, both at school and at home.

School Performance

Students’ academic performance can be negatively impacted if they are required to start class early in the morning while they are running a sleep deficit.

Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on pupils’ memory, organization, and problem-solving abilities. As a result, sleep deprivation makes kids feel drowsy. Nearly three out of every ten pupils polled said they fell asleep in school at least once a week or more.

Chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to:

  • Having a hard time remaining focused and paying attention.
  • A decline in originality.
  • incapacity to think clearly and logically
  • Poor academic performance.
  • Reduction in the number of people attending.
  • Dropout rates are higher.

It’s also possible that a student’s mental condition will be affected by lack of sleep, making it more difficult for them to participate productively in class. sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of:

  • Motivation has dwindled to an all-time low.
  • Stress sensitivity has been raised.
  • Inability to control one’s impulses.
  • Problems deciphering nonverbal clues from other people.

Outside of School

It’s not just grades that suffer when you’re sleep deprived. Preteens and teens who get inadequate or poor-quality sleep face a host of physical and behavioral problems and mental health hazards as a result of their sleep deprivation.

  • Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, among other diseases, in those who don’t get enough rest.
  • Adolescents who are chronically sleep deprived are more likely to suffer from mental health difficulties, including despair and anxiety.
  • Drivers of all ages are at risk for drowsy driving incidents. Getting into a car accident increases a teen’s risk of being sleep deprived.
  • Adolescents who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to overdose on caffeine and prescription stimulants, according to new research.
  • As a result of lack of sleep, teenagers are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as drinking and drug misuse and reckless driving.

Should School Start Later?

The National Sleep Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both advocate later start times for middle and high schools. The actual start times of schools have been reluctant to change despite the general agreement among health professionals.
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Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of early school start times because of their unique sleep-wake cycle. During puberty, children’s internal sleep clock or circadian rhythm begins to shift, causing them to fall asleep later in the evenings. However, due to early school start hours, pre-teens and teens are unable to make up for their later bedtimes by staying up longer.

Changing middle and high school start times to later in the day can help solve this issue and may have additional benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Starting School Later?

Delaying school start times helps teenagers to wake up later in the morning and sleep during the ideal hours for their bodies because of their natural desire to go to sleep later. For the average middle school and high school student, later school start hours have been shown to correlate to an increase in weekday sleep.

Students who get enough sleep have a wide range of benefits, including better academic performance and better physical and mental health. To begin with, studies show that later start times at school are linked to

  • Improved attendance in class.
  • Lateness decreased.
  • Grades that are
  • In the classroom, staying awake.
  • While doing homework, you’ll feel less tired.

There may be advantages outside of school for starting lessons later. The following are also linked to later start times at school:

  • Fewer traffic collisions.
  • Reducing the amount of time spent in bed on weekends.
  • Reduced signs and symptoms of depression.

It’s possible that later start times aren’t advantageous for all students. Early school start times may not cause sleep loss or excessive daytime sleepiness in elementary school pupils, according to some study.

Are There Drawbacks to Later Start Times?

If you want to improve your sleep, you may want to consider shifting school start times later.

  • There are conflicting timetables: For parents who work 9 to 5, the early school start hours fit perfectly into their weekday schedules if the school year begins at 8:15 a.m. or earlier. Parents and children may have a more difficult time coordinating their morning routines if school starts later.
  • The start times for elementary, middle, and high schools are frequently staggered to make school bus transit planning easier. A later school start time would challenge school bus issues and require considerable preparation to overcome.
  • Because of the later start time, students will have less time after school. With school ending later in the day, students may not have as much time for other activities such as homework or tutoring, sports or part-time employment or spending time with their friends and interests. ‘

Every kid, parent, caregiver, and teacher’s morning routine and daily schedule are influenced by school start times. There are several logistical hurdles to overcome when changing school start schedules.

How Do School Start Times Affect School Performance?

There have been numerous studies showing that early school start hours are related with pupils obtaining less sleep, which has a negative impact on student academic performance. Lack of sleep affects a student’s performance in class and might lead to worse grades. Irritability and exhaustion are some possible side effects.
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The following issues arise as a result of students having to wake up early for school:

  • The likelihood of engaging in risky activities like bullying and fighting is increased.
  • The likelihood of engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as excessive alcohol and drug use and tobacco use rises significantly.
  • A greater chance of getting hurt while doing sports.
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts are on the rise.
  • An increase in the likelihood of traffic collisions.

Sleep deprivation has long-term negative effects on one’s physical and mental well-being. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity can all be caused by a lack of sleep.

Why Are Later School Start Times Better?

Adolescents’ biological demands are met by later school start hours, which increases the quantity of sleep they get. The following are additional advantages of later start times:

  • Attendance at school has increased.
  • Improved punctuality.
  • Improved student performance.
  • In the classroom, there have been fewer instances of students falling asleep.
  • Depression and irritation have been reduced.
  • Disciplinary problems have decreased.
  • A decrease in the number of car accidents.
  • There was a 16.5% drop in the teenage crash rate after school start times were pushed back one hour, according to one study.

Disadvantages of Later School Start Times

Later school start times provide many advantages, but there are also some potential drawbacks.

  • Conflicts in the schedule. When competing against schools with earlier starting times, this can lead to earlier dismissing hours.
  • Problems with getting around. Later start times may imply more buses on the road in the afternoon, which could increase traffic and lengthen commute times for passengers.
  • Childcare. If high schools dismiss later than elementary or middle schools, it may be more challenging for older students to care for younger siblings after school.

However, these issues are likely to be handled by adaptability and careful preparation.

Talk to your school board or other educational officials if you have concerns about your child’s school’s start time being too early.

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