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School Start Times, Sleep, Behavioral, Health, and Academic Outcomes: a Review of the Literature

Anne g. wheaton.

Epidemiologist, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy. NE, Mailstop F-78, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, Phone: (770) 488-5362, Fax: (770) 488-5965, vog.cdc@9opi

Daniel P. Chapman

Epidemiologist, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy. NE, Mailstop F-78, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, Phone: (770) 488-5463, vog.cdc@2cpd

Janet B. Croft

Branch Chief, Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy. NE, Mailstop F-78, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, Phone: (770) 488-2566, vog.cdc@0cbj

Insufficient sleep in adolescents has been shown to be associated with a wide variety of adverse outcomes, from poor mental and physical health to behavioral problems and lower academic grades. However, most high school students do not get sufficient sleep. Delaying school start times for adolescents has been proposed as a policy change to address insufficient sleep in this population and potentially to improve students’ academic performance, reduce engagement in risk behaviors, and improve health.

This paper reviews 38 reports examining the association between school start times, sleep, and other outcomes among adolescent students.

Most studies reviewed provide evidence that delaying school start time increases weeknight sleep duration among adolescents, primarily by delaying rise times. Most of the studies saw a significant increase in sleep duration even with relatively small delays in start times of half an hour or so. Later start times also generally correspond to improved attendance, less tardiness, less falling asleep in class, better grades, and fewer motor vehicle crashes.


Although additional research is necessary, research results that are already available should be disseminated to stakeholders to enable the development of evidence-based school policies.

Sleepy adolescents have doubtlessly been a problem for a long time. However, it is only since the late 1980s that this issue has progressed from teachers’ anecdotes of students falling asleep in class and parental complaints of daily struggles to get their children out of bed to scientific investigations into the causes and consequences of insufficient sleep.

Most adolescents may need at least 9 hours sleep per night 1 – 3 ; however, fewer than 8% of high school students report getting this amount. 4 Less than a third of students report 8 or more hours of sleep, and this proportion decreases as school grade level increases so that fewer than a quarter of high school seniors get this amount. 4 Healthy People 2020, a national initiative designed to guide disease prevention and health promotion efforts to improve the health of all Americans ( http://www.healthypeople.gov/ ), contains 4 objectives related to sleep, including one for adolescents. 5 This objective is to “increase the proportion of students in grades 9 through 12 who get sufficient sleep (defined as 8 or more hours of sleep on an average school night).”

Insufficient sleep in children and adolescents has been shown to be associated with a wide variety of adverse outcomes in multiple aspects of their lives from poor mental and physical health to behavioral problems and poor academic grades. Insufficient sleep has been linked to excess weight, 6 – 13 decreased physical activity, 14 and increased food intake, possibly due to alterations in appetite-regulating hormones. 12 Results of investigations into longitudinal changes in weight attributable to sleep duration, however, have been mixed. 10 , 15

A solid body of literature has found that insufficient sleep in this young population is tied to poor mental health, including depression, depressive symptoms, 8 , 16 – 22 and suicidal ideation. 8 , 18 , 20 , 22 – 25 In addition, a few studies have shown an association between insufficient sleep and unhealthy risk behaviors including alcohol use, 17 , 19 , 20 , 22 tobacco smoking, 20 , 22 marijuana use, 20 , 22 use of other illicit/prescription drugs, 22 unhealthy weight control strategies, 26 and recent sexual activity. 20 Other factors that have been found to be associated with insufficient sleep include risk-taking behaviors, 27 bullying, 28 school violence-related behaviors, 29 and physical fighting. 20 Short sleep duration has also been found to be associated with a higher risk of unintentional injury. 30 Finally, students who do not get enough sleep also may be more likely to have problems paying attention and poor academic performance, 17 , 21 , 31 – 36 although not all research agrees. 37 , 38 One of these negative studies failed to find a correlation between school night sleep duration and grade point average. 37 However, class grading and subsequently grade point averages are not standardized and may vary by subject, teacher, and school. That study also did not adjust by sex of student, which was a strong predictor of grade point average. Ming et al. found that “students with a sleep length of less than 7 hours on both weekdays and weekends exhibited poorer performance, while those who made up this sleep loss on weekends did not.” 38 That study also relied on a non-standardized measure of academic performance and did not adjust for variables such as grade in school, which is strongly related to prevalence of insufficient sleep.

Adolescents tend to get insufficient sleep because of a combination of late bedtimes and early rise times. External factors that contribute to later bedtimes among adolescents include an increase in schoolwork; participation in afterschool activities, including employment; fewer parent-set bedtimes; and late-night use of technology in the bedroom. 39 – 43 Biology also plays a part in later bedtimes among adolescents. One of the early changes associated with puberty is alteration of a child’s circadian rhythms, such that adolescents are more alert in the afternoons and evenings and require morning sleep. 44 Their natural body clocks can keep adolescents awake until 11 PM or later, in spite of going to bed earlier and good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding stimulating activity at night and minimizing caffeine intake in the afternoon or evening. 39 School-based sleep promotion programs have been tried as a means of improving sleep hygiene among adolescents. However, these programs may improve knowledge of sleep without having a significant effect on behavior. 45 , 46

Rise times, on the other hand, are primarily determined by a single factor—school start times. 43 Delaying school start times for adolescents has been proposed as a policy change to address insufficient sleep in this population and potentially to improve students’ academic performance, reduce engagement in risk behaviors, and improve health. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement urging middle and high schools to adjust start times to permit students to obtain adequate sleep and improve physical and mental health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life. 3 This paper reviews studies examining the association between school start times, sleep, and other outcomes including academic performance, mental health, and motor vehicle collisions among adolescent students. This paper, and especially the table provided, is intended to be a resource for educators, parents, and other stakeholders who wish to learn more about the impact of changing school start times for adolescents.


An outline of the steps in identification of articles and reports included in the literature review is presented in the Figure . To be included in the review, analyses had to include the variable of “school start time” either by comparing different schools with different start times (cross-sectional) or the same schools before and after changes in start times (longitudinal). Since the focus of this review is on the effect of school start times on adolescent students, studies that focused on elementary school (pre-middle school) students were excluded. Additionally, reports had to be available in English, but could include schools either in or outside the United States. Articles for the literature review were initially identified through a PubMed search for “school start time” OR “school start times” (Step A). Some exclusions from this initial search included a study that compared students in public or private schools to homeschooled students, 47 a comparison of adolescent sleep during summer and during the school year, 48 and one that modeled the effect of modifying school start times on the frequency of encounters between child pedestrians and motor vehicles. 49 Another broader PubMed search for “sleep” AND “adolescent” AND “school” resulted in approximately 3200 articles (Step B). Titles and abstracts were reviewed to identify studies that might meet primary inclusion criteria. Full-text review of candidate articles confirmed inclusion of articles for this review. Reference lists of articles identified in Steps A and B and reviews of the topic of school start times were reviewed for identification of additional reports (Step C). Several of the earliest studies with results presented in abstract form only were identified in this manner, 50 – 54 as were some studies from the education or economics literature that were not indexed by PubMed. 55 – 59 A Scopus search for “school start time” (all fields) found 320 documents (Step D), of which 3 satisfied the inclusion criteria and had not been identified in previous steps. Finally (Step E), one additional non-duplicative report was identified in the reference list for articles in Step D. Final searches in Steps A, B, and D were conducted July 1, 2015. For this review, 38 reports were reviewed for years of study, study design, sample size, students’ ages, location, school start times, outcomes, and key reported findings. Five of these reports are listed more than once in the table. Three reports included multiple study populations whose data are analyzed separately. 59 – 61 Three reports included cross-sectional and longitudinal components, with data for each component presented separately. 55 , 57 , 61

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Identification of Reports for Review

The primary limitation to this review is its reliance on indexing by PubMed and Scopus, which could lead to omission of reports not indexed by these databases. To address this limitation, we also examined the reference lists on previous articles on the topic of school start times (Steps C and E). Five of the 38 reports were identified in this manner. Publication bias and over-representation of studies with significant results is also possible, however, some studies included in this review had results that did not agree with the majority.

Types of School Start Time Studies

We reviewed 38 reports on the impact of changes in school start time (see Table ). Unfortunately, the earliest reports, 50 – 54 which have been cited frequently, were only published in abstract form. However, since they seem to have provided the impetus for much of the subsequent research and are fairly detailed, we have included them in this review. The studies presented in this review can be categorized as either cross-sectional or longitudinal. The cross-sectional studies simply compared characteristics for students at two or more schools having different start times, such that School A had an earlier start time than School B and compared how students at the two schools with respect to such outcomes as sleep duration, school attendance, academic performance, and morning traffic accidents among teens.

Descriptions of School Start Time (SST) Studies in Preadolescents, Adolescents, and College-Age Students

Abbreviations: ACT, originally American College Testing – one of two standardized tests commonly used in college admissions in the United States; HS, high school; MS, middle school; NR, not reported; SD, standard deviation; SST, school start time.

Changing school start times is often a major endeavor that involves coordination between school faculty and staff, transportation resources, parents, students, and administration, and can take years to accomplish. Cross-sectional studies can be conducted without having to wait for a school or school district to undertake a change in school start time. However, as with all cross- sectional studies, only associations between school start times and other variables can be shown—not cause and effect. Other school characteristics, such as socioeconomic status of students, can also have effects on sleep and other outcomes but is often not reported.

In the longitudinal studies, data are collected on students and schools before and after a change in start time. Some data that are regularly collected by schools, such as attendance and grades, can be obtained retroactively by researchers. Other data, such as those obtained from student sleep surveys, need to be collected before the start time change is implemented, and including these data can increase the duration of the study. Some studies evaluate characteristics of the same students before and after the change. Others evaluate the student population (either the entire school or specific grades in school) before and after the change. This second method, for instance, could compare outcomes in 9th-grade students in the year before the start time change with the same outcomes in 9th-grade students in the year after the change. Both of these methods have their drawbacks. Although it would seem to be preferable to evaluate the same students before and after a change, individual students can undergo significant changes from year to year that could exaggerate or diminish the effect of changing start times. However, by being able to evaluate changes in variables for individual students, researchers are able to address questions such as, “Did the students who got more sleep after the start time’s change have improved outcomes?” Although longitudinal studies may provide stronger evidence of causation than cross-sectional studies by addressing the issue of temporality, it is important to assess whether appropriate control conditions are used, whether analyses account for covariates (eg, age, sex, or socioeconomic status), and whether other explanatory variables are considered (eg, implementation of graduated drivers licensing).

Sleep and Sleepiness

Since delaying school start times is primarily intended to address the problem of insufficient sleep among adolescents, most of the studies focused on the association between school start times and sleep variables. Not surprisingly, students at schools with later start times got out of bed later on school days than those at earlier starting schools. 35 , 36 , 50 , 53 , 55 , 56 , 60 , 62 – 69 The association between school start times and bedtimes, however, was mixed. Of 19 studies that evaluated the association between school start times and bedtime, there were no start time-associated differences in weekday bedtimes in eleven studies. 35 , 50 , 53 – 55 , 60 , 62 , 67 , 68 , 70 However, six studies observed a later bedtime among students in schools that started at later times. 34 , 36 , 56 , 64 , 66 , 71 It should be noted that in the study by Wolfson and colleagues, this bedtime difference was observed only in the autumn. 64 Two studies unexpectedly reported earlier bedtimes after a delay in start times. 65 , 69 In the study by Owens et al., some students stated that after seeing the benefits of getting more sleep with the delay in school start times, they sought to further increase their sleep by going to bed earlier. 65 In Paksarian et al, bedtimes were delayed by only 10 minutes for each 30 minute delay in school start times. 71 In 29 reports, a later start time was found to be associated with longer weekday sleep duration, 34 , 36 , 38 , 51 – 56 , 60 – 79 including the studies that noted later bedtimes. 34 , 36 , 56 , 64 , 66 , 71 In contrast to the majority of studies that observed longer sleep duration in later starting schools, two studies comparing students from schools with different start times did not observe a significant difference in sleep duration. 35 , 50 For one of these, the difference in sleep duration did not meet the authors’ effect size criterion, although the difference would not have been expected to be large since the difference in school start times was only 20 minutes. 35 The other study observed longer sleep duration for students at the later starting school, but the difference was not statistically significant. 50 Another study observed a significantly longer sleep duration for 7th- and 8th-grade students of only one of two later-starting districts. 60 Sleep duration for the second later-starting district was also longer than for the early-starting district, but the difference was not statistically significant. 60 Paksarian et al. observed longer sleep durations with later school start times (11 minutes for each 30 minute delay in school start times), but only for schools that started before 8:01 AM. 71 In further analysis, the authors found the longer sleep duration for boys only (20 minutes for each 30 minute delay in school start times) and that there was variation by urbanicity, with an increase in sleep duration for boys in major metropolitan areas and a decrease for boys in nonurban counties. 71 The authors suggested that the different association according to urbanicity may be due to differences in mode of transportation to school and time spent traveling to school, but they did not have data to investigate the possible role of transportation in their study. Although nearly all the studies reviewed used self-reported sleep data either from sleep diaries or survey questions, the two studies that used data from electronic wrist monitors (actigraphs) worn during sleep confirmed the general finding of longer weeknight sleep duration for students with later start times. 62 , 70 Eleven of the positive studies found that students got at least one additional minute of sleep for every two minutes of difference in start time (eg, at least 30 minutes more sleep when start time was one hour later), 34 , 55 , 56 , 60 , 61 , 64 , 65 , 68 , 70 , 72 , 78 although six other studies observed smaller, yet statistically significant, differences. 51 , 52 , 62 , 63 , 73 , 74

In addition to reporting longer sleep durations, students with later start times were less likely to report daytime sleepiness or falling asleep in class in nearly all studies that assessed these outcomes. 34 , 36 , 55 , 56 , 60 , 64 , 65 , 69 , 72 , 74 Two studies observed no difference in sleepiness based on school start times. In the Norwegian study, 78 start times were delayed from 8:30 AM to 9:30 AM on Mondays only. The lack of association could have been due to either the change being in effect only one day a week or the earlier start time already being late enough. In the Croatian study, 80 the students at the earlier starting schools were predominantly boys, while girls made up most of the population at the later starting schools. That study found that girls had later chronotype (evening preference) and more sleepiness. In addition, the schools in the Croatian study alternated their schedule weekly, with schools starting in the morning one week and in the afternoon the next. Even with a delay in start time, falling asleep during class appears to remain a major problem, however. In Wahlstrom and colleagues’ survey of students post-start time change, 27% reported falling asleep in a morning class in the previous 2 weeks, and 29% fell asleep in an afternoon class. 61

Other methods for assessing students’ degree of sleep-deficiency were used in various studies. Students in a study by Carskadon and colleagues underwent polysomnography (a type of sleep study that measures multiple factors such as electrical activity in the brain, heart rate, movements of the eyelids and legs, and respiratory airflow) and multiple sleep latency tests. 62 After an advance in start time from 8:25 AM to 7:20 AM, students had a shorter REM sleep latency (time between sleep onset and onset of REM sleep) on polysomnography and a shorter sleep latency (time to sleep onset during a standard testing protocol). 62 Both of these results indicate sleep-deficiency. Differences in sleep patterns between weeknights and weekend nights can also indicate insufficient weeknight sleep as students try to make up for lost sleep on the weekends. Seven reports that evaluated weekend sleep patterns found more “catch-up” sleep on the weekends for earlier start times, 51 , 61 , 64 , 66 , 69 , 74 , 78 although one found no difference in this outcome. 71 One study assessed weeknight and weekend sleep and observed longer weeknight sleep duration and no change in weekend sleep patterns after a delay in school start time, which could be interpreted as a decrease in “catch-up” sleep. 67 However, the difference between weeknight and weekend sleep was not analyzed. Three studies that included information about daytime naps noted that students with earlier school start times reported more napping, 38 , 66 , 75 presumably in an attempt to make up for insufficient nighttime sleep. Sleepy adolescents may also attempt to lessen sleepiness with caffeine. One study asked students about caffeine consumption and observed that caffeine use decreased after a 25 minute delay in school start time. 67

Academics and Cognition

An outcome of particular interest to school administrators, teachers, and parents is academic performance; however, evaluating how delayed start times affect school grades or academic performance is difficult for several reasons. Class grading is not standardized and varies by subject, teacher, and school. Standardized tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the ACT are not taken by all students and are more likely to be taken by students planning to attend college. Finally, students with very good academic performance before a delay in school start time do not have much room for improvement. Given these limitations, however, some evidence suggests a positive association between later school start time and academic performance, 57 , 58 , 60 , 61 , 64 , 81 although the association may be relatively weak 55 and not universal. 59 , 67 , 80

The first cross-sectional school start time study by the University of Minnesota found higher self-reported grades for students in later starting schools. 60 Mean self-reported grades for the two districts that started before 7:30 AM were 6.4 and 6.5 (on a scale from 1 = mostly F’s to 9 = mostly A’s) compared to 7.1 for the district starting at 8:30 AM (p < .05). However, the increase in grades observed from this group’s subsequent longitudinal study was small and not statistically significant. 55 In their latest longitudinal study including 8 schools, the same group noted that most schools saw an increase in grade point average after delaying school start times. 61 Arlington Public Schools (Arlington County, Virginia) observed an improvement in 10 th grade students’ 1 st period grades after a 45 minute delay in high school start times, with no change in 7 th grade students’ 1 st period grades after a 20 minute advance in middle school start times. 81 Hinrichs’ investigation into ACT scores and school start times in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, which included school districts that did not delay school start times, controlled for various covariates and found no association between school start times and ACT scores. 59 The annual ACT participation rate among Minnesota high school graduates varied from 59% to 66% during the study period (1993–2002). 59 Hinrichs also evaluated the association between school start times and standardized test scores in Kansas (Kansas State Assessments) and the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. 59 Again, he found no association between school start times and academic achievement in these analyses. 59 Wolfson and colleagues observed higher grades after delaying school start times for 8th grade, although not for 7th-grade students. 64 Another study linked school start times and standardized test scores for middle school students (grades 6–8) from 1999 to 2006 in the eighteenth largest public school district in the United States. 57 In the cross-sectional component of that study, an hour later start time corresponded to higher test scores on both math and reading (on the order of 3 percentile points). 57 The longitudinal component of the same report looked at schools that had changed school start times over the course of the study and found that a one hour delay in start time corresponded to a 2 percentile increase in math and 1.5 percentile increase in reading. 57 Among older students, U.S. Air Force Academy freshmen, students assigned to a first period course and therefore an earlier start to the school day had poorer grades. 58 A longitudinal study of nearly 200 boarding school students did not see a change in self-reported grades after a 25 minute delay in school start times. 67 In Milic et al.’s study in Croatia, students with an earlier school start time performed better academically than students at the schools with later start times. 80 However, in addition to the difference in the make-up of the student populations (more boys at earlier schools and more girls at later schools) in that study, students were also aware of the school schedule at enrollment and the response rate was low.

Several studies have investigated the association between school start time and cognitive outcomes. Two studies found that students with later start times reported fewer problems concentrating and paying attention. 70 , 72 In contrast, a study in Spain measured attention level via a sustained attention task among students at three schools with different start times (8:00, 8:15, and 8:30) and observed the highest average attention level at the school starting at 8:15. 77 However, it should be noted that the mean inductive reasoning score, a measure of intelligence which is positively associated with attention, was significantly lower for the latest-starting school than the other two schools. 77 The Norwegian study that delayed start times on Mondays included reaction time tests and found that students at the school with delayed start time had significantly fewer lapses and faster reaction times on Monday than Friday compared to no difference among students at the control (no delay) school. 78

Several studies asked students how much time they spent on homework. There was no consistent association between school start time and homework time. Wahlstrom and colleagues found that students with later school start times reported less hours of homework, 60 whereas Edwards observed the reverse 57 and Boergers and colleagues saw no difference. 67 Interpretation of these results in difficult. An increase in time doing homework could indicate an improved ability to concentrate or less efficient studying. Since the value of homework is hotly debated, this outcome should not be taken out of context.


School attendance is also important for academic success. A recent report found that short sleep duration was strongly associated with odds of school absences. 82 Several studies included in this review found that earlier start times were also related to more frequent tardiness and more absences. 55 , 57 , 60 , 61 , 64 , 65 In one study, even with delaying start times from 8:00 AM to 8:55 AM, nearly a third of students reported being late to class because of oversleeping in the 2 weeks before the survey. 61 However, one study of schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area found no association between school start times and overall attendance rates. 59 The report by Arlington Public Schools stated that “maturity, rather than starting time, has the biggest impact on attendance rates.” 81 However, when comparing 10 th graders before and after the delay in high school start times, attendance rates were lower after the delay. Despite this finding, academic performance improved for those students. The report also noted that the attendance reporting procedures changed during the course of the study.

Sleep is strongly linked with many psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety. 83 Although sleep problems may be symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression, there is also evidence of a causal relationship between insufficient sleep and depression, as well as mood in general. 84 , 85 Due to this observation, some school start time studies included depression symptoms as part of their student assessments. Students at later-starting schools appeared to experience fewer depression symptoms (lower depression scores). 55 , 60 , 65 , 67 Incidentally, shorter REM sleep latency, such as was observed by Carskadon and colleagues after an advance in start time, 62 is also often observed in major depression. 86 One study found no difference in students’ positive or negative affect with delayed school start time. 78 However, in that study, the start time was delayed on Mondays only.

Motor Vehicle Crashes

Four studies also investigated motor vehicle crashes among young drivers (aged 18 years or younger) in areas served by schools with different start times. In a Kentucky county, Danner and Phillips saw a 16.5% decrease (p < .01) in motor vehicle crash rates for 17- and 18-year-old students in the 2 years following a 1-hour delay in school start time by county high schools. 74 During the same time period, crash rates for this age group increased by 7.8% in the rest of the state. 74 In their 2011 report, Vorona and colleagues compared crash rates for teen drivers aged 16 to 18 years in 2 neighboring, demographically similar cities (in eastern Virginia) with different start times. In 2007 and 2008, the teen crash rates were significantly higher in the city with an earlier school start time. 87 For both cities, teen crashes peaked during the morning commute time. 87 The group went on to perform similar analyses for two adjacent counties in central Virginia with different school start times. 88 During the 2009–2010 school year, crash rates among 16–18 year olds were higher (p < .05) in the county with the earlier school start times. 88 The following year, crash rates among 16–17 year olds were higher (p < .05) in the same county, but difference was not statistically significant when 18 year olds were included in comparison (p = 0.09). 88 Finally, Wahlstrom and colleagues investigated crash rates among 16- to 18-year-old students in 4 areas near schools that underwent delays in start time. Two areas saw major decreases (≥65%) in teen crash rates after the delays, while one saw a small decrease (6%), and another saw a small increase (9%). 61

Other Outcomes

There are a handful of other outcomes that have been reported by only one study each. One study saw that students at schools with later start times spent less time at work during the school week (p < .05). 60 More time working has been linked to poorer academic performance. 89 However, the start time study was cross-sectional and other variables such as socioeconomic status may explain the difference in time spent at work. In the cross-sectional component of his study, Edwards found that students at schools that started later reported less time watching television. 57 When he limited his analyses to schools that changed start times over the time course of the study, he confirmed that students at schools that delayed their start times reported significantly less time watching television. 57 Among 197 boarding school students, no change in time spent in athletics or extracurricular activities was reported after a 25 minute delay in start time. 67 Finally, in a small study of 15 students who transitioned from grade 9 (school start time 8:25) to grade 10 (school start time 7:20), self-reported conduct problems and aggressive behaviors decreased with the change to an earlier start time. 54 However, within each grade, these behaviors were associated with shorter sleep duration, which indicates that at least some of the decrease in these behaviors may be due to maturation. 54

Delaying school start times for adolescents has been proposed as a policy change to address insufficient sleep among adolescents, a largely sleep-deprived population, and potentially to improve students’ academic performance, reduce engagement in risk behaviors, and improve health. Nearly all studies to date provide evidence that delaying school start time accomplishes the goal of increasing sleep duration among these students, primarily by delaying rise times. Most of the studies saw a significant increase in sleep duration even with relatively small delays in start times of half an hour or so. Later school start times also generally corresponded to improved attendance, less tardiness, less falling asleep in class, fewer depression symptoms, and fewer motor vehicle crashes. Although not all studies found that later start times corresponded to improved academic performance, no studies found a negative impact of later school start times on academics.


In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement urging middle and high schools to adjust start times to permit students to obtain adequate sleep and improve physical and mental health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life, and suggested that middle and high schools not start before 8:30 AM. 3 Schools and school districts cannot make evidence-based policy decision without data. Therefore, research results such as those presented in this review, as well as the recent recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, should be disseminated to school districts, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. The field still needs rigorous research, including trials with controls, if possible. Many questions remain, such as the issue of how late is late enough? Much of the focus has been on high school students, but biological changes begin earlier, so further research into middle-school students is warranted. More qualitative research about overcoming obstacles to delaying school start times would also be valuable.

Schools contemplating a change in school start time may consider partnering with researchers before a decision is even made. Baseline data on student sleep characteristics, tardiness due to sleepiness, and prevalence of falling asleep during class may be used in the initial decision of whether to delay school start times. Parents and administrators may not realize the extent of the problem of insufficient sleep among their students and this data may help persuade them that some action is necessary. If school start times are delayed, everyone would benefit from collection of detailed data before and after a time change. Not only would other schools or school districts contemplating a change benefit from expanded evidence, the district that undertook the start time change would be able to evaluate the impact of the change and communicate their findings to their stakeholders. Data collected should include not only sleep-related variables and academic achievement measures, but also measures of mental health (such as depression and anxiety symptoms), behavioral problems, risk behaviors, safety statistics such as motor vehicle crash rates and pedestrian injuries, and information on mode of transportation and travel time. Several obstacles to implementing start time delays are often cited, including costs of changing bus schedules, possible impact on athletics and extracurricular activities, and school faculty and staff resistant to change. However, as recently reported by Owens et al. 90 in their examination of school districts that have delayed school start times, many anticipated problems fail to materialize or are only temporary. Several school districts have seen savings in transportation costs after changes made to facilitate delayed start times. 90 Success stories describing how districts creatively overcame obstacles to school start time changes should be shared (for example http://www.startschoollater.net/success-stories.html ) to provide ideas to other districts contemplating change.

Disclaimer : The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contributor Information

Anne G. Wheaton, Epidemiologist, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy. NE, Mailstop F-78, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, Phone: (770) 488-5362, Fax: (770) 488-5965, vog.cdc@9opi .

Daniel P. Chapman, Epidemiologist, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy. NE, Mailstop F-78, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, Phone: (770) 488-5463, vog.cdc@2cpd .

Janet B. Croft, Branch Chief, Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy. NE, Mailstop F-78, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, Phone: (770) 488-2566, vog.cdc@0cbj .

school start time essay

Home » Tips for Teachers » Exploring the Evidence: 7 Comprehensive Reasons Why School Should Start Later for Enhanced Student Well-being and Academic Success

Exploring the Evidence: 7 Comprehensive Reasons Why School Should Start Later for Enhanced Student Well-being and Academic Success

The debate on the optimal timing for school start times has gained considerable momentum, presenting compelling reasons why school should start later. This growing consensus among educators, parents, and researchers highlights the profound benefits such a shift could have on student health and academic performance.

7 Reasons Why School Should Start Later

Traditionally, schools have adhered to an early morning schedule, a routine that is increasingly viewed as misaligned with adolescent physiological rhythms and conducive to chronic sleep deprivation. This discrepancy between school schedules and the natural sleep patterns of teenagers has sparked a significant reevaluation of how educational institutions can best support the developmental and learning needs of their students.

Advocating for later start times is not merely a call for more sleep; it represents a holistic approach to enhancing the educational environment by optimizing the physical and mental well-being of students. The argument for delayed start times is supported by a wealth of research indicating improvements in various areas of student life, including academic achievement, mental health, and physical wellness.

Reasons why School should Start Later in the Morning: – Better for students sleep and attendance – Don’t need to stay up as late to do homework because you can do it in the morning — Pisha 🍉 ⪩⚢⪨ Et Le Ena Piou (@mafuanenautism)  September 30, 2022

However, transitioning to a later schedule also presents logistical challenges and potential drawbacks, such as impacts on extracurricular activities, family routines, and community infrastructure, which must be thoughtfully addressed.

This article embarks on a comprehensive examination of the subject, exploring the multifaceted benefits of starting school later, the considerations and challenges that come with such a change, and the real-world implications as evidenced by initiatives like those undertaken by the Seattle School District. Through this analysis, we aim to provide a balanced perspective on why the shift towards later school start times could represent a significant step forward in fostering environments that truly cater to the needs and potentials of our young learners.

On this page, you will discover:

  • The Benefits of Starting School Later →
  • The Potential Drawbacks of Starting School Later →
  • The Impact of Delayed School Start Times in Seattle School District →

7 Reasons Why School Should Start Later

Wendy Troxel attributes the lack of sufficient sleep among teens not to Snapchat, social lives, or hormones, but to public policy, specifically early school start times, and shares insights from her dual perspective as a sleep researcher and a mother in a must-watch video on how this affects adolescents during a crucial stage of their lives.

Now, let’s delve into the compelling reasons why school should start later, exploring seven key factors that highlight the benefits of adjusting school schedules for the betterment of student health, engagement, and academic performance.

1. Improves Academic Performance

Adequate sleep is essential for adolescents, who are at a pivotal stage of development and learning. The evidence linking sufficient rest to improved academic outcomes is compelling, suggesting that later school start times could play a key role in enhancing students’ educational achievements.

Improves Academic Performance

The correlation between adequate sleep and enhanced academic performance is well-documented. Studies by organizations such as the National Sleep Foundation underscore the critical role sleep plays in cognitive functions, including memory retention, focus, and decision-making processes. Adolescents, who are in a crucial phase of brain development, particularly benefit from extended sleep, as it directly influences their ability to learn and excel academically.

A later school start time aligns with their natural sleep cycles, allowing for a more alert and engaged mindset during school hours. This alignment not only fosters an environment conducive to learning but also translates into tangible outcomes such as higher test scores and grade improvements. Consequently, the shift to later start times could serve as a strategic approach to bolster academic success, addressing educational priorities and student well-being in tandem.

Why It Is Important

  • Academic success is key for future opportunities, shaping higher education and career paths.
  • Enhanced performance from later start times correlates with better cognitive functions: memory, attention, and problem-solving.
  • Quality sleep, aligned with circadian rhythms, leads to deeper, more restorative rest, essential for learning and memory.
  • Alert, focused students are more likely to actively participate and retain information.
  • Benefits individual students and contributes to a positive, productive learning environment.
  • Later start times are a strategic approach to enhance educational outcomes and prepare students for success.

Discover in this video how mastering healthy sleep habits can serve as a genuine performance enhancer in the classroom, leading to better sleep and higher GPAs for students.

2. Allows Teens to Get More Sleep

The mismatch between teenagers’ biological clocks and early school schedules is a significant barrier to their health and well-being. Recognizing the critical importance of sleep for this age group underlines the need for adjustments in school start times to support their developmental needs.

Allows Teens to Get More Sleep

Adopting later school start times harmonizes with teenagers’ biological clocks, addressing the mismatch between early school schedules and adolescents’ sleep needs. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendations highlight the importance of adequate sleep for teenagers, a demographic often burdened by early start times and societal pressures that encroach on their sleep duration. This shift not only ensures they meet the optimal sleep quota but also enhances their overall health and cognitive function.

The benefits extend beyond the mere number of hours slept; the quality of sleep improves, fostering better mental, emotional, and physical health. This holistic improvement in well-being is crucial during adolescence, a period marked by significant growth and development challenges.

  • Adequate sleep is crucial for teenagers’ physical and mental development, supporting growth, immune response, and emotional regulation.
  • Recommended sleep leads to fewer behavioral issues and improved decision-making.
  • Important during adolescence, a time of significant development.
  • Sufficient sleep is linked to better mood regulation and reduced risk-taking.
  • Schools can help teens get the necessary sleep, promoting academic success and well-being.
  • Recognizes the link between physical health, mental health, and academic achievement.

Behavioral and social scientist Wendy Troxel explains how early school start times essentially cause daily jetlag for students and advocates for a change in their morning routines in a compelling video worth watching.

3. Reduces Absenteeism

Healthier students are more likely to attend school consistently, underscoring the impact of sleep on immune function and overall wellness. By adapting school schedules to allow for more sleep, educators can directly contribute to reducing absenteeism and enhancing the learning environment.

Reduces Absenteeism

Later school start times contribute to a healthier student body, which directly impacts attendance rates. Sleep deprivation compromises the immune system, making students more susceptible to illness and, consequently, more likely to miss school. By ensuring that students get sufficient rest, schools can see a reduction in absenteeism.

This not only benefits students’ academic performance and continuity of learning but also contributes to a more vibrant, participatory school environment. Improved health outcomes due to adequate sleep thus serve as a preventive measure against common ailments, ensuring that students remain present and engaged in their educational journey.

  • Regular attendance is essential for continuous learning and success.
  • Each missed day is a lost opportunity for learning and interaction.
  • Absenteeism creates knowledge gaps, affecting confidence and curriculum engagement.
  • Reducing absenteeism with later start times ensures full participation in education.
  • Improves academic outcomes, social integration, and school connectedness.
  • Alleviates administrative and teaching challenges, leading to a more efficient educational process.

Matt Pearl explores how what seems like a harmless day off can quickly escalate into habitual truancy, and highlights one school district’s innovative plan to combat this issue and refill empty seats in a must-see video.

4. Lowers Risk of Depression and Mental Health Issues

The crucial relationship between sleep and mental health, particularly in adolescents, cannot be overstated. Addressing sleep deprivation through later school start times is a preventative measure that could significantly improve students’ mental health outcomes.

Mental Health Issues

The interplay between sleep and mental health is critical, especially during the volatile adolescent years. Inadequate sleep has been consistently linked to increased risks of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. By shifting school start times later, students are afforded the opportunity to align their sleep schedules with their biological needs, significantly mitigating these risks.

This preventive approach to mental health is of paramount importance, considering the rising incidence of mental health challenges among teenagers. Providing an environment that supports adequate sleep can be a fundamental strategy in promoting mental well-being, offering a buffer against the stressors and challenges of adolescence.

  • Mental health’s critical role in students’ well-being and success is undeniable, with adolescence being a particularly vulnerable period for the onset of issues like depression and anxiety. Sleep deprivation significantly exacerbates these conditions.
  • Ensuring adequate sleep is foundational for robust mental health, enabling students to better manage stress and the myriad challenges of adolescence with greater resilience.
  • Schools that implement later start times contribute to a proactive approach to mental health care, leading to a noticeable reduction in the incidence and severity of mental health issues among students.
  • This initiative fosters a supportive educational environment where every aspect of student well-being is nurtured, promoting a healthy school climate conducive to learning and growth.

William Brangham delves into why many teens struggle to get the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep, the prevalence of insomnia among them, and the significant impact on their mental health in this insightful video.

Delve into the critical role of mental health in educational success with “ 8 Reasons Why Students Should Have Mental Health Days: A Research-Based Analysis ” offering evidence-based arguments for the integration of mental health days into school policies to enhance student well-being and academic performance.

5. Reduces Drowsy Driving in Teens

With the initiation of driving coinciding with the teenage years, the risk of drowsy driving becomes a pressing concern. Adjusting school start times to ensure teenagers get enough sleep could be a critical step in enhancing road safety and reducing accidents.

Drowsy Driving in Teens

Teenage years coincide with the commencement of driving for many, introducing risks associated with drowsy driving. The CDC has identified sleep deprivation as a key factor in teen driving accidents. By enabling teens to align their sleep schedules with natural rhythms through later school start times, the incidence of drowsy driving can be significantly reduced.

This has the dual benefit of enhancing individual safety and contributing to broader public safety outcomes. Preventing accidents through such measures not only saves lives but also fosters a culture of responsible driving habits among young individuals.

  • The safety of teenage drivers is a paramount concern, with drowsy driving posing a significant risk not just to the drivers but to the community at large. The alertness of drivers is crucial and is directly influenced by the amount of sleep they have received.
  • By pushing school start times later, we can mitigate the risk of accidents caused by sleep deprivation, significantly enhancing public safety and specifically safeguarding teenage drivers, who are often less experienced and more vulnerable on the road.
  • This measure not only prioritizes the health and safety of students but also contributes to the broader goal of ensuring safer roads and communities.

Explore the findings of a new study on teen drivers and the risks of drowsy driving in this informative video recommended for viewing.

6. Helps Teens Feel Happier

Sleep deprivation negatively impacts adolescents’ mood and overall happiness. Schools that adopt later start times can help align students’ schedules with their natural sleep patterns, fostering improved well-being and a more positive school experience.

Reduces Absenteeism

Aligning school schedules with teenagers’ natural sleep cycles can significantly enhance their overall happiness and well-being. The dissonance between early school start times and adolescents’ biological predisposition for later sleep and wake patterns can lead to chronic sleep deprivation , affecting mood and well-being.

By adopting later start times, schools can help rectify this misalignment, allowing students to adhere to a more natural sleep schedule. This adjustment can lead to improved mood, greater resilience, and a more positive outlook on life, which are crucial for healthy adolescent development and academic success.

  • The well-being and happiness of students are essential for their active engagement and enjoyment of their educational journey. Students who are well-rested show a marked increase in engagement, curiosity, and motivation.
  • By aligning school start times with teens’ natural sleep cycles, there’s a significant improvement in students’ overall mood and outlook on life, which in turn enhances their social relationships and reduces conflict.
  • This positive adjustment has been linked to not only a more vibrant school environment but also to tangible improvements in academic performance, demonstrating the deep interconnectedness between emotional well-being and educational outcomes.

Discover how a high school in Dedham, Massachusetts is combating student feelings of hopelessness with an innovative course on finding happiness through savoring experiences and fostering relationships in this inspiring video.

7. Reduced Stress

The stress induced by early mornings and lack of sleep can significantly affect students’ academic and social lives. By moving the start of the school day later, schools can alleviate a major source of daily stress, contributing to a healthier, more conducive learning environment.

Reduced Stress

The impact of sleep on stress levels cannot be overstated. Starting school later can significantly reduce the morning rush, a source of daily stress for many students. This reduction in stress can have a domino effect on various aspects of students’ lives, including their academic performance, social interactions, and overall mental health.

By mitigating one of the many stressors in students’ lives, schools can create a more supportive and productive learning environment. The benefits of such a change extend beyond the individual, positively affecting the school culture and community at large.

  • Stress stands as a formidable barrier to both learning and mental health, with its ability to impair cognitive function and negatively affect academic performance. The rush and pressure of early mornings contribute significantly to students’ stress levels.
  • Adopting a later start to the school day offers students a schedule that is more in sync with their natural sleep patterns, effectively reducing morning stress and allowing for a calmer, more focused start to their academic activities.
  • This reduction in stress is beneficial not only for students’ academic performance but also for their mental and physical health, contributing to a more positive, supportive, and productive educational environment.

Discover why starting school later could help teens get the more sleep they need and improve their lives in various ways in this video, addressing common concerns about sleep needs for younger people.

Discover “ 7 Research-Based Reasons Why Students Should Not Have Homework: Academic Insights, Opposing Perspectives & Alternatives ” for a comprehensive analysis of the homework debate, presenting alternative strategies to improve student learning.

The Potential Drawbacks of Starting School Later

1. scheduling sports and extracurriculars becomes more difficult.

The integration of later school start times presents a unique set of challenges for the scheduling of sports and extracurricular activities, which are vital components of a student’s holistic development. The shift could potentially disrupt the delicate balance between academic commitments and extracurricular engagement, affecting students’ ability to participate in these valuable experiences.

Scheduling Sports

One potential drawback of starting school later is the complication it introduces to scheduling sports and extracurricular activities. Many students are actively involved in after-school programs, including sports teams, clubs, and other organizations that play a significant role in their development. This presents a clear argument for why school should not start later, as it could lead to conflicts with extracurricular activities that depend on fixed schedules. This can result in logistical challenges for both students and program coordinators, potentially causing students to miss out on opportunities that contribute to their growth beyond academics.

In response to this challenge, schools and communities can adapt by rethinking and possibly reinventing the scheduling and structure of extracurricular activities. Flexibility in planning, such as holding some activities in the morning or making more efficient use of weekends, can ensure students continue to benefit from these programs. Moreover, a later start time might actually enhance student participation and performance in extracurriculars, as students would be better rested and more focused, potentially leading to a richer extracurricular experience.

2. Increases Childcare Costs and Logistical Challenges for Working Parents

Transitioning to later school start times poses significant logistical and financial challenges for working parents, necessitating adjustments in childcare arrangements and potentially disrupting daily routines. This change can introduce added stress and financial burden on families, complicating the work-life balance that is crucial for the well-being of both parents and students.

Increases Childcare Costs

The shift to later school start times can increase childcare costs and create logistical challenges for working parents. Parents may find themselves needing to arrange for additional morning care or adjust their work schedules to accommodate the change. This can add financial strain and complicate the balance between work and family life, creating stress and potentially impacting the overall well-being of families.

However, the community and employers can play a crucial role in easing this transition. Workplaces could offer more flexible working hours or remote work options to accommodate the needs of parents. Additionally, schools and community organizations might develop affordable before-school programs to support families. This approach not only addresses the logistical and financial concerns but also fosters a community-centric solution that benefits both students and their families.

3. May Make After-School Jobs and Activities More Difficult

Adjusting school hours to start later in the day could inadvertently impact students’ ability to engage in after-school jobs and activities, critical for their personal development and financial support. This shift may limit the time available for such commitments, posing challenges for students who depend on the afternoon and early evening hours for work and extracurricular participation.

After-School Jobs and Activities

For students who rely on after-school jobs for income or participate in non-school activities, a later dismissal time can significantly reduce the available hours for work and other commitments. This could affect their ability to support themselves or their families financially and limit their engagement in valuable community or personal development activities.

On the flip side, a later start time can lead to more alert and productive students, potentially making them more efficient in balancing work, activities, and school responsibilities. Schools and local businesses could collaborate to offer flexible working arrangements for students, recognizing the mutual benefits of supporting adolescent development while maintaining their contribution to the workforce and community engagement.

4. Reduces Time for Homework and Family Activities

A later dismissal time from school may compress the window available for homework, relaxation, and family time, essential components of a student’s well-being and academic success. This reduction in available time during the evening can increase stress and limit opportunities for meaningful family interaction and adequate academic preparation.

Reduces Time for Homework

With a later end to the school day, students might find themselves with less time for homework, relaxation, and family activities in the evening. This compression of non-school hours could lead to increased stress, less downtime, and diminished family interaction, which are all important for a student’s well-being and academic success. Uncover persuasive reasons against adopting year-round schooling in “ Comprehensive Analysis: 8 Strong Reasons Why School Should Not Be Year-Round ” highlighting its possible effects on both students and educators.

This challenge necessitates a more efficient approach to homework and after-school time management, potentially encouraging schools to reassess the volume and nature of homework assigned. With strategic planning and support, students can learn to manage their time effectively, ensuring they have sufficient opportunities for both academic responsibilities and family engagement. Additionally, the quality of family time can improve when students are less stressed and more rested, making the time spent together more meaningful.

The Impact of Delayed School Start Times in Seattle School District

In the 2016-2017 academic year, the Seattle School District embarked on a pioneering initiative to address the chronic sleep deprivation affecting its secondary school students. Recognizing the mounting evidence on the importance of adequate sleep for adolescents’ physical, and mental health, and academic performance, the district made a decisive move to delay the start times of its secondary schools from 7:50 am to 8:45 am. This change was aimed at aligning school schedules more closely with students’ biological sleep needs, thereby enhancing their overall well-being and academic outcomes.

Seattle School District

Researchers from the University of Washington seized this opportunity to conduct a comprehensive study, both before and after the implementation of the new start times. Their research included students from two public high schools in Seattle, providing a valuable case study on the impacts of such policy changes.

The findings, published in Science Advances, revealed significant benefits stemming from the later start times. On average, students gained an additional 34 minutes of sleep per night, increasing their total nightly sleep from six hours and 50 minutes to seven hours and 24 minutes. This increase brought students closer to achieving the recommended sleep amount and marked a reversal in the century-long trend of gradual sleep loss among adolescents.

The benefits of this policy change extended beyond just improved sleep duration:

  • Improved Sleep Duration: The policy change led to longer sleep times for students.
  • Enhanced Academic Performance: Observations showed a significant increase in students’ academic achievements.
  • Increased Punctuality and Attendance: Notably higher rates of on-time arrivals and attendance, especially in economically disadvantaged schools.
  • Narrowing Socioeconomic Learning Gap: The change suggests the potential to reduce disparities in educational outcomes between low and high socioeconomic groups.
  • Reduced Daytime Sleepiness: Students experienced less sleepiness during the day, indicating better sleep quality and its positive effect on daily engagement and functioning.

Dr. Tara Narula reports on a Seattle school district that transitioned to a later start time, showcasing the positive outcomes of the study, making it a highly recommended video to watch for insights on the impact of such changes.

Despite the success observed in Seattle, such shifts in school start times remain relatively rare across the United States, where the typical start time still hovers around 8 a.m. However, the Seattle School District’s experience stands as a compelling testament to the benefits of later start times, supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advocacy for this change as an effective countermeasure to the widespread issue of sleep deprivation among teenagers.

The Seattle School District’s initiative demonstrates a proactive approach to student health and education, providing valuable insights and evidence for other districts contemplating similar adjustments. By prioritizing the sleep needs of students, the district not only improved their academic and health outcomes but also set a precedent for the importance of aligning educational policies with scientific research on adolescent well-being.

Useful Resources

  • Time Management Activities For High School Students
  • Daily Routine For Students: Recommendations And Techniques
  • How to Reduce Student Stress and Excel in School

Final Thoughts

The conversation surrounding delayed school start times is complex, yet the evidence, especially from the Seattle School District, provides clear reasons why school should start later, highlighting the potential for significant positive changes in student well-being and academic success. As education stakeholders consider the future of school schedules, balancing the advantages with logistical concerns will be crucial. Ultimately, the goal is to create educational environments that best support the development and achievement of every student.

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Simona Johnes is the visionary being the creation of our project. Johnes spent much of her career in the classroom working with students. And, after many years in the classroom, Johnes became a principal.

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What new research tells us about elementary and middle school start times

Subscribe to the brown center on education policy newsletter, kevin c. bastian and kevin c. bastian research associate professor - unc chapel hill, director - epic @kevin_c_bastian sarah crittenden fuller sarah crittenden fuller research associate professor - unc-chapel hill and epic @sarahcfuller1.

March 23, 2023

Every morning, K-12 students across the country wake up and prepare for another day of school. While students’ morning routines may look similar everywhere—eating breakfast, getting dressed, scrambling to finish homework assignments—the time school starts varies considerably across schools. This seemingly simple start time decision can have meaningful effects on students’ sleep, health, engagement with school, and learning .

Over the last two decades, sleep research has convincingly shown that around the onset of puberty many adolescents experience biological changes that impact the timing of their sleep. Adolescents still need approximately nine hours of sleep each night, but it becomes difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00pm and wake before 8:00am. Early school start times make it challenging for adolescents to get the sleep they need, and fatigued students may be less engaged with and successful in school.

In response to this evidence, many school districts across the country have delayed start times for their high schools. This decision is supported by sleep research and multiple studies showing that later high school start times are associated with improved attendance , course grades , behavior , and achievement .

While later start times benefit high school students, we also need to consider the indirect effects on younger students. Districts often stagger start times for elementary, middle, and high schools to allow for multiple busing runs, lessen traffic congestion, and allow caregivers to drop off children at different schools. If high schools are starting later, it likely means that elementary and/or middle schools must start earlier.

Is this a good tradeoff? Do these earlier elementary and middle school start times come at a cost to the sleep and academic outcomes of younger students? And are there better and worse ways to organize school schedules? Over the last five years, we have sought to answer these questions through a series of studies on school start times in North Carolina.

Why Do School Start Times Matter for Student Academic Outcomes?

In prior work , we put forth a theoretical model for how start times influence academic outcomes. Later school start times allow for additional sleep , which should benefit students’ alertness , attention, and memory . An increase in sleep and cognitive functioning should improve more proximate academic outcomes such as attendance, behavior, and course grades. More distally, we would expect benefits for student achievement.

Yet, studying the effects of varying school start times can be challenging. Comparing academic outcomes across schools with different start times may conflate start time effects with other characteristics of schools and districts. A more rigorous approach is to assess how changes in school start times predict changes in academic outcomes. However, schools rarely change start times, and even when schools do change start times, there are questions regarding the generalizability of those effects to other schools.

To date, there have been only a few studies on start times and academic outcomes for elementary and middle school students. At the elementary school level, prior studies do not convincingly isolate start time effects or analyze actual changes in start times. At the middle school level, a study from one district shows that shifts to later start times predict higher test scores, especially for low-performing students.

New research from North Carolina

We add to this existing research with a series of start time studies in North Carolina. This includes analyses of an urban district that shifted many elementary school start times from 9:00am to 7:45am or 8:30am, as well as statewide analyses of start times in elementary and middle schools . Our work uses eight years of administrative data and considers a broad set of outcomes—sleep, attendance, suspensions, course grades, and test scores—for all students and certain subgroups. Notably, we focus on schools that make changes to their start times rather than relying on variation in start times between schools. In combination, our studies provide the richest evidence yet regarding the connections between start times and academic outcomes for younger students.

Finding 1: Earlier start times have small, mixed effects on elementary school students

In partnership with an urban district in North Carolina, we surveyed 5th graders, districtwide, about their sleep and perceptions of their start time. Compared to peers attending elementary schools starting at 9:00am, those attending elementary schools starting at 7:45am reported getting 45 minutes less sleep per night. In addition, those starting at 7:45am were approximately half as likely—40% to 74%—to agree that their school started at the right time. These findings are consistent with prior work showing a strong relationship between school start times and sleep.

While later start times predict more sleep for elementary school students, results for academic outcomes are modest and mixed. We find that student absences increased slightly after elementary schools switched to an earlier start time (with some evidence of larger increases for white students and those living in rural areas). Conversely, we find that earlier elementary school start times predict modestly higher math scores, especially for economically disadvantaged students and students of color. In our analysis, start times do not appear to affect elementary school reading scores or suspension rates.

Finding 2: Earlier start times negatively affect middle school students

Earlier start times have more consistent and substantially negative effects for middle schoolers. We find that student absences increase after middle schools switch to an earlier start time. These results are particularly large for economically disadvantaged students and suggest that it may be difficult for some students and families to adjust to an earlier commute. Middle school students—especially middle school boys—are also less likely to be suspended after their school switches to a later start time. For instance, after a one-hour delay in start time, middle school boys are 2.5 percentage points less likely to ever be suspended during the year. Start times do not predict course grades for middle school students.

We find robust evidence linking later start times to increased test scores for middle school students. A one-hour delay in middle school start times predicts math scores 8% of a standard deviation higher and reading scores 4% of a standard deviation higher. To put these results into perspective, these estimates are larger in magnitude than the average effectiveness differences between first- and second-year teachers.

Implications for Start Time Decisions

Our findings highlight several important takeaways for state and local education officials. Like prior work in high school , our findings show that later start times benefit the academic outcomes of middle school students. Meanwhile, we find that earlier start times for elementary school students have modest and mixed effects—i.e. a small increase in absences but also a small increase in math test scores. These findings are consistent with the biology behind adolescent sleep. That is, changes in sleep patterns occur around the onset of puberty, which is generally when adolescents are in middle school or near the end of elementary school.

Taken together, our results indicate that districts should prioritize later start times for high schools and middle schools. Evidence indicates that elementary schools can start earlier to accommodate these shifts without negatively affecting student outcomes.

More broadly, we believe our results emphasize the connections between adolescent health and educational outcomes. Initiatives to improve student health—e.g., later start times, free school meals , and school-based health clinics —can be effective approaches to improve student engagement and achievement. This is particularly important in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic as districts and schools work to promote student social-emotional and learning recovery.

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4 Benefits of Later School Start Times

Later school start times bring more sleep and improved health and academic success for teens.

Later School Start Time Benefits

Two teen girls and one unrecognizable teen boy stand in a group outside the school to talk before classes in the morning.

Getty Images

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on school nights more than 70% of high schoolers don't get the eight to 10 hours of sleep they need.

Getting back on a school schedule can be a difficult adjustment after the lazy days of summer, especially for teens.

Experts say adolescents are biologically wired to stay up later than younger kids, and having to get up early for school contributes to them being chronically short on sleep . But delaying school start times can help.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has called insufficient sleep in adolescents a public health issue and recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. But as of 2017, the average start time for public high schools nationwide was 8 a.m., and 10% of schools started before 7:30.

This fall, California became the first state to mandate delayed school start times, with public high schools required to start classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and middle schools not before 8 a.m. Supporters say the change will not only let California teens and tweens catch a few extra Z’s, but will bring many other important benefits.

“There are resulting improvements across the board: grades improve, attendance goes up and graduation rates go up fairly significantly,” says Lisa L. Lewis, a parenting journalist and the author of "The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, And How Parents And Schools Can Help Them Thrive."

Opponents to later start times say they can cause significant logistical issues with bus routes, parent work schedules and extracurriculars like after-school sports.

But advocates say the benefits are worth the cost. States like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are considering also making the change.

“Studies have shown over and over that teens get more sleep when school starts later, with research-based benefits to their physical and mental health, academic performance and beyond,” says Elinore Boeke, communications director for Start School Later, a nonprofit organization that lobbied for California's new law.

California's implementation of the new rules comes at a time when many teens' sleep habits have changed for the worse due to the pandemic .

Here are some of the benefits of later school start times:

  • Better mental and physical health.
  • Improved academic outcomes.
  • Reduced risk of car accidents and injuries.
  • Less tardiness.

Better Mental and Physical Health  

Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, but almost 60% of middle schoolers and more than 70% of high schoolers don't get enough sleep on school nights, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In adolescence, changes to the body's "sleep drive" and a delayed release of the sleep hormone melatonin make it more difficult for teens to fall asleep early.

Research shows that when school starts later, teens get more sleep, says Shelby Harris, a sleep psychologist and clinical associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine , with "many adolescents able to obtain at least eight hours of sleep per night." That leads to better physical and mental health, including decreased rates of depression and anxiety and less caffeine use, Harris says.

Teens who reported they got at least eight hours of sleep per night were more likely to say they have good overall health and less likely to report being depressed or using caffeine and other substances, per a study by the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota.

“Kids are more likely to eat breakfast, and teachers find kids smiling and awake to learn in first period,” Boeke says.

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Mother preparing to send her children back to school at car in morning. Mom say Good bye before school start. Education and Back to school concept. Happy family and preschool student and education

Improved Academic Outcomes

When school starts later, "mood, academics, attendance and graduation rates all improve,” says Harris.

For instance, one study by the National Sleep Foundation found that both attendance and graduation rates   "significantly improved" in schools that delayed their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.

Studying middle schools in Wake County, North Carolina, with variable start times, economics professor Finley Edwards found that starting school an hour later would raise test scores an average of 2 percentile points in math and 1.5 points in English. Effects were larger for lower-performing students.

Using Edwards' methodology, but on a national scale, the authors of another study estimated that National Assessment of Educational Progress math scores for eighth graders would increase as much as 8 points if schools started one hour later, which many experts say is equivalent to almost a full grade-level increase.

Jessica Baltaxe, an 11th grader at Angelo Rodriguez High School in Fairfield, California, is starting school a half-hour later this year, and says students like being able to sleep in.

"A half-hour doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it makes a big difference," she says.

"Many students go to bed late because of the demands of their coursework and extracurriculars, so by providing extra time in the morning it sets them up to have a more productive day."

Reduced Risk of Car Accidents and Injuries

Multiple studies  have shown that both overall car crash and distracted driving crash rates drop significantly with delayed school start times, which can reduce mortality and morbidity in adolescents.

Research on delayed school start times also show that there are fewer sports-related injuries, Harris says.

Several  studies  show the importance of adequate sleep for student athletes.

"Getting a good night's sleep and getting it at the right time has been shown to improve student athletes' accuracy and reaction time and significantly lessen their risk of injury," Boeke says.

Hansika Daggolu is in 11th grade at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, California, where the start of the school day has moved from 8 a.m. to 8:30. She's looking forward to the change.

“I think having later school start times would be especially beneficial for me and other kids who have after-school commitments like sports. We will be getting more sleep, so we will be able to perform better,” Daggolu says.

Less Tardiness

Regular tardiness can be an issue for sleep-deprived teens. But starting school later makes it easier for students to arrive on time.

“Repeated studies show that starting secondary schools at 8:30 a.m. or later significantly boosts on-time attendance,” says Joy Wake, advocacy director for Start School Later.

She notes this is especially so for financially disadvantaged or lower-performing students who already face obstacles in getting enough sleep and getting to school on time.

“Being well-rested boosts emotional resiliency,” Lewis says. “When teens get more sleep, they’re better equipped emotionally to deal with all of the daily stressors.”

While tardiness may not have been an issue for Baltaxe, she says the later start times make a big difference for busy students like herself.

“Before, I was still waking up during class, but now I feel more prepared to take on the day,” Baltaxe says.

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Why both teens and teachers could benefit from later school start times

school start time essay

Lecturer in Science Education, Sussex School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

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school start time essay

A typical school day in the UK starts around 8.30am. This is often even earlier elsewhere in the world, with students sitting down to their first lesson at 7.30am in the US.

But these early start times can play havoc with teenager’s natural sleeping patterns – with research showing that waking a teenager at seven in the morning for school is similar to waking an adult at four in the morning . And while many adults wouldn’t relish such an early alarm call every working day, it’s a “non-negotiable” expectation for teenagers.

The average teenager ideally needs eight to nine hours’ sleep each night, but in reality a lot of teenagers struggle to get this much – which can then impact their performance in the classroom.

A lot of the problems arise because our sleep patterns are not fixed, and they change as we grow . For teenagers, melatonin – the sleep hormone – doesn’t start being produced until 11pm. This is why teens don’t start feeling sleepy until late at night, and why simply telling a teenager to go to bed earlier doesn’t work.

This has led to calls for later school start times for teenagers to align more closely with their bodies’ biology.

What the research shows

A major study published in 2014 examined the impact of later start times on 9,000 US teenagers. Researchers found that:

Grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates and reduced tardiness show significantly positive improvement with the later start times.

They also found that with less sleep than recommended, the students reported that they had:

Significantly higher depression symptoms, greater use of caffeine, and are at greater risk of making poor choices for substance use.

In the US – where teenagers can legally drive from the age of 16 – the research also found later start times led to a decrease in car accidents involving teenage drivers.

Why teenagers sleep differently

To understand why a later school start time can make such a difference to teenagers’ lives, we need to take a look at the biology that governs their sleep wake cycle.

We all have a sort of hardwired “clock” in the brain – this is often referred to as our body clock. This “clock” controls the production of the hormone melatonin, and in turn, melatonin controls sleep. Melatonin is naturally produced in the brain and starts the process of sleepiness by telling your body that it’s time for bed.

Once asleep, we normally go through five sleep stages a night. And one of the stages – the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage – varies significantly with age.

school start time essay

REM sleep is linked to learning, and it’s during REM sleep that we dream. It is characterised by quick, random movements of the eyes and paralysis of the muscles. REM sleep normally makes up around 20-25% of an adult human’s total time spent asleep – or 90 to 120 minutes. We get to REM sleep about 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep. And if we don’t achieve REM sleep, we wake up feeling tired.

Studies have also shown that lack of REM sleep can impact our ability to learn . And this is what happens to teenagers who do not get their full allocation of sleep. They fail to get to REM sleep and then wake up feeling tired, which can then impact their ability in the classroom that day.

The benefits for late starters

So a later school start time could help to solve this problem, by ensuring teenagers get their eight plus hours of sleep and react properly to their body’s natural rhythms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics , said in a policy statement in 2014 that:

Delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement.

I believe we should also look again at the timing of the whole school day and see if we can make it better for everyone. Because in my experience, there has been a general shift over the past 25 years to shorten the school day.

This is not at the cost of teaching time (which has remained constant) but at the cost of natural breaks, which has led to reduced lunch times and lesson breaks.

school start time essay

This is mainly because it makes the management of children easier. Supervising hundreds of children “playing” requires effective staffing. And there is always the fear that behaviour deteriorates during breaks. So the theory goes that having them in class and strictly supervised must be better.

But this means that students barely have enough time to absorb what they were doing in maths before suddenly they are thrust into ancient history. And teaching staff also transition from one class to another, with hardly a rest or time to refocus.

Clearly rethinking the school day could benefit everyone involved. Yes, there may be challenges in terms of parental work patterns, transport to school or changing childcare arrangements, but it could also lead to better achievement in teenagers and less of a struggle for parents in the mornings. For teachers, it could also mean a less stressful day all around – and what could be better than that?

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15 Reasons Why School Should Start Earlier (Top Benefits!)

starting school earlier pros and cons, explained below

The debate over school start times often focuses on the many reasons school should start later . However, there are plenty of debate arguments for why school should actually start earlier.

Here are 10 possible reasons why schools should stick with an earlier start time.

  • Cuts transportation costs
  • Gets students to school faster
  • Has benefits for work schedules
  • Lets districts pool resources more effectively
  • Allows more free time
  • Creates academic advantages
  • Is safer for travel
  • Allows for afterschool jobs
  • Establishes a routine
  • Prompts a healthy lifestyle
  • There are no clear benefits of starting later
  • Students don’t see their parents as much
  • Allows time for after-school sports
  • Negates the need for daylight savings time
  • Allows teachers to do more with their day

Starting earlier has benefits for kids of all ages and serves the additional purpose of saving the school district a good amount of money. The rest of this article will discuss the benefits of starting school early.

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Reasons Why School should Start Earlier

1. early start times cost less for schools.

One of the main reasons schools haven’t instituted later start times is the associated costs.

For example, Greenwich school district conducted studies into pushing back start times after reading the evidence supporting later start times. However, they found that any scenario would lead to increased costs. Here was one key finding:

“Pushing every school’s start back by 30 minutes to 90 minutes would involve between 10 and 19 extra buses, requiring an additional outlay each year from approximately $760,000 to some $1.5 million.”

Similarly, staggered bus routes – where high schools start earlier and elementary schools stay the same – would lead to more time for the busses to complete their routes, but would increase costs for insurance, fuel, and wages for drivers.

2. Students can Skip the Traffic

As well as saving the school money on fuel, early morning start times help to avoid the traffic.

Avoiding traffic has abundant benefits. For one thing, it will mean there is less of a chance that the busses and cars will get caught in traffic jams, meaning students will theoretically turn up to class on time more often.

This does, of course, assume that students will make it to the earlier bus and not accidentally sleep in.

However, keep in mind that if everyone starts driving on the roads earlier to get their kids to school, the traffic may shift with the changes in school times, negating this benefit.

3. Has Benefits for Work Schedules

Another good benefit of starting school earlier is that it can blend more effectively with parents work schedules.

For students who can’t be left unattended, parents have to pay out of pocket for daycare or babysitting services if they leave the house well before their child is picked up for school.

An earlier start could mean that parents can get the students to school and then get on with their days – going to work, doing early shopping, and so forth.

Of course, the downside here is that an early start time may lead to an early ending time, which just pushes back the scheduling clashes into the afternoon.

4. It Lets Districts Pool Resources More Effectively

There’s always a need for good bus drivers, and sharing buses is common practice in a school district.

Unfortunately, buses are expensive to run and can only be used for one route at a time. Starting earlier in the morning, particularly for grade students, allows busses to be available for picking up students who have later start times.

If all students began at the same time, the district would need to have buses and drivers available to meet the demand for all those students at the same time.

By giving grade school students an earlier start, the rest of the district has transportation resources available for students.

However, as noted earlier, this would also be associated with higher costs for transit.

5. Allows More Free Time

Between school, jobs, and team practices, students today are swamped with work. This leads to the concept of the over-scheduled child .

While starting early might be a bit of a bummer for them, doing so ensures that they finish earlier, too, allowing them to pursue afterschool activities, manage homework, and still enjoy their free time without feeling like they have no personal time.

By giving children more free time, they may in fact get time to play, be creative, and potentially even get more sleep (Glauser, 2018).

6. You Get More into the Day

Starting early means you can fit more into your day. And while adults often burn out part-way through the day, adolescents can power through well into the afternoon.

As a result, by sending children to school early, we can get them to fit more into their days, and even potentially open up debates about having 4-day school weeks.

This reasoning is likely why schools do start so early, with 93% of high schools and over 80% of middle schools starting prior to 8:30a.m.

(Note: For a counterargument , consider the abundance of evidence showing school-age children’s brainpower is best around mid-morning – see: Dikker et al., 2020).

7. Is Safer for Travel

People advocating for later school starts often point out that sleep deprivation makes early morning driving dangerous for teenagers (Taheri & Arabameri, 2012).

While this evaluation is correct, it doesn’t consider the other side of the proverbial coin: later commutes home from work are also dangerous, especially in urban environments.

Starting school earlier may be able to give students space to drive to and from school with less traffic which could make the streets safer.

8. Allows for Afterschool Jobs

For high school students preparing for the future, an afterschool job is a major part of growing their savings early.

Schools that start earlier are usually finished in time for high school students to pick up a part time job in their local area.

Not only does a job earn them valuable money for college, but it also teaches them discipline and responsibility in a work environment.

9. Establishes a Routine

Establishing a routine is difficult as an adult, much less as a child, but for students of all ages, establishing an “early to bed, early to rise” mentality has numerous health benefits .

It enables students to mentally prepare themselves for the day and set up a routine to transition into adulthood.

Getting up early ensures that students are ready for a bed at a decent time, avoiding some risky situations often associated with detrimental behavior.

10. Prompts a Healthy Lifestyle

Schools starting earlier not only helps students establish a morning routine, but it also benefits their lifestyle as whole.

Students who adapt to getting up early, preparing for the day, and balancing their daily schedule are more prepared for adulthood.

Creating a healthy school-life balance by understanding what’s expected of them, tackling homework, and participating in extra-curricular activities translates to a healthy work-life balance in the future.

11. There’s no Clear Benefit to Starting Later

While there is some scattered evidence of making school start times later, the most extensive systematic review on this topic found there isn’t enough evidence to make start times later.

In other words, if you’re debating the topic of school start times and you’re on the side of earlier start times, make sure you argue at least the point that there’s no need to make start times later.

As Marx et al. (2017, p. 10) argue in their systematic review:

“We cannot be confident about the effects of later school start times.”

Therefore, there needs to be much clearer and far less biased studies on school start times before making school start times later.

12. Students may see their parents more

A study (Hinrichs, 2011) of schools that start later found that late start times lead to less interaction between children and their parents.

The study found:

“…later school start times may be associated with decreased morning interactions between parents and children.” (Marx et al., 2017, p. 43)

An earlier start time, on the other hand, may lead to more interaction because the parents and children will have more evening and afternoon time to spend together.

Here, the assumption is that late start times just mean the children sleep in; while early start times mean the children get up, get their day done, and then can spend some time with their families.

13. Allows time for after-school developmental activities

If school starts earlier and ends earlier, then society can start structuring after-school activities for children that allow for holistic development of children.

This may include structuring mid-afternoon sessions for children’s development in sporting, play, creative, artistic, and musical pursuits.

We could envisage a world where formal schooling ends and students go on to structured activities of their choice associated with pursuing their creative or sporting interests. This may help to raise a society that’s not just focused on academic standards, but also a more holistic experience of the diverse range of human pursuits.

14. Negates the need for daylight savings time

The rationale for daylight savings time is to allow people to have one extra hour of light in the evening during summer.

There is ample debate about the value of daylight savings time. But if students started and ended school earlier, then there wouldn’t be a need to squeeze an extra hour of sunlight into the day for children’s activities.

As a result, we can reduce one more argument about the benefits of daylight savings time.

15. Allows teachers to do more with their day

If teachers can finish their day of work by 2pm, they could schedule extra things into their afternoons.

At the moment, teachers spend their nights preparing classes for the next day. This can make their work-life balance very poor.

But if teachers finish their school day by 2pm, they can spend the next 3 hours preparing their next day’s classes and not bring school work home with them. This will increase their time with their families in the evenings.

Furthermore, as a teacher, I get frustrated that I can never book appointments at the bank or with the dentist because I am always working when they were open. But if I can get off work at 2pm, I can finally get to those appointments.

Transitioning to an early schedule can be challenging for many students, but at the end of the day, it’s often a decision made to benefit the school district as a whole.

Cutting back on transportation costs, pooling resources, and staggering busloads to and from school are some of the main reasons that schools, particularly grade schools, start so early in the morning.

Dikker, S., Haegens, S., Bevilacqua, D., Davidesco, I., Wan, L., Kaggen, L., … & Poeppel, D. (2020). Morning brain: real-world neural evidence that high school class times matter.  Social cognitive and affective neuroscience ,  15 (11), 1193-1202.

Glauser, W. (2018). Overscheduled and glued to screens—children are sleeping less than ever before. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 190 (48). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-5676

Hinrichs, P. (2011). When the bell tolls: The effects of school starting times on academic achievement.  Education Finance and Policy ,  6 (4), 486-507.

Marx, R., Tanner‐Smith, E. E., Davison, C. M., Ufholz, L. A., Freeman, J., Shankar, R., … & Hendrikx, S. (2017). Later school start times for supporting the education, health, and well‐being of high school students: a systematic review.  Campbell Systematic Reviews ,  13 (1), 1-99.

Taheri, M., & Arabameri, E. (2012). The effect of sleep deprivation on choice reaction time and anaerobic power of college student athletes. Asian journal of sports medicine, 3 (1), 15.


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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4 thoughts on “15 Reasons Why School Should Start Earlier (Top Benefits!)”

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This is so wrong on every level. 1. Sleep is known to be a very important part in learning new things. If students don’t get enough sleep, they wouldn’t be able to learn as effectively, therefore making schools much less effective than they could be. If your argument to that is “student can go to sleep earlier so they get more sleep” you are wrong for the following reasons: A. If they go to sleep earlier, they have less free time(because their day ends earlier). I don’t understand how this one fact gets ignored by literally everyone. B. Sleeping doesn’t work that way. You can’t just fall asleep whenever you want. To fall asleep, you need this hormone called melatonin. This hormone is not produced at will whenever you want to go to sleep. I guess you never understood biology, otherwise you would know that reflexive actions you body does aren’t always up to conscious decisions we make. And some people(like me) are not affected by melatonin pills. C. Insomnia is a thing that exists in some students. For people with insomnia, falling asleep is even harder than it is for most people. So unless schools want to discriminate against insomniacs, they should not expect everyone to come early. D. Since student need sleep to learn better, they probably won’t need as many lessons in each subject every week, making the school shorter(because there are less classes). Though I am not so sure that schools would notice this if it happened. 2. After-school activities would be moved forward if schools ended later. Because that’s when students would be available. In fact, those who participate would probably preform better, since they would be less tired. This seemed pretty obvious to me, but I guess you never thought about it, since you didn’t mention it. 3. Daily routines don’t have to start in the early morning, and a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to include waking up and going to be early. In fact, it’s probably unhealthy, since sleeping in the natural time when you feel tired is much better for your health than trying to force yourself to fall asleep to early and forcing yourself to wake up with an alarm clock. 4. Those who want to get up early still can, and they can have some free time in the morning before school, at home. As you can probably imagine, waking up and immediately having to get ready quickly to get to school on time is not a pleasant experience. Especially if you woke up late. So starting school later can make morning a lot less stressful.

I think these are plenty of good reasons for schools to start later. Fact: Finland’s education system is the best in the world, and they start later and end pretty quickly, so some of my points actually exist in real life, and show results.(not to say that starting late and finishing early is the main factor in Finland’s education system’s success, but that it obviously isn’t harmful to the students’ school lives, and that they don’t hate school.)

I hope you actually understood that there are plenty of good reasons to move school starting times forward, and that you understand that most people hate waking up early. Though adults do need to wake up early, the same standard should be held against children and adolescents, who’s brains are still developing and need sleep the most.

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Good points Yael. The points presented in the article are possible debate points for students to critically engage with, not necessarily gospel… we also have a complementary article presenting some of your arguments against starting school earlier, that is linked to within this piece.

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Thanks I needed this for my ap psych assignment

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I agree. I am currently doing an assignment in school on why school start times should be changed. One of the biggest reasons I have found is that when teenagers hit puberty their body goes through something called phase delay. This is where their circadian rhythms shift back by about two hours. This means that most teenagers can’t fall asleep until 11pm.

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Psychology in Action

The debate on pushing school start times: is there a perfect solution.

For several years now, there has been a major debate among researchers, educators, and policymakers on whether to start schools later in order to allow teenagers the chance to get a full night of sleep. An abundance of empirical literature suggests that adolescents, on average, receive less than the optimal 7-9 hours of sleep per night on school nights (1). Individuals who have poor sleep duration during their teenage years are at an increased risk of suicide, mental health issues, and car accidents (2,3). To make matters worse, research on chronotypes—a predetermined characteristic influenced by genes and hormones which determines one’s tendency to be a morning or evening person—demonstrates that there is a natural shift in the body’s circadian rhythm during adolescence that delays adolescents’ sleep. As a result, teens tend to be evening people, engaging in later bedtimes and wake times (4,5). Importantly, federal reports suggest that the average school start time in the United States is 7:59AM, interfering with students’ ability to sleep sufficiently on school nights (6). Thus, early school start times coupled with a delayed circadian rhythm has continued to plague adolescent sleep schedules for far too long.

In 2017, California considered a bill asserting that school start times for middle schools and high schools, both public and charter, cannot begin before 8:30AM (7). Ultimately the bill was not passed, however, it was recently revisited this year. Last week, California governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill claiming that it is a “one-size-fits-all approach” and should not be decided at the state level, but rather should be considered at the community level to ensure that the people whose lives would be directly impacted by such a policy have a proper say in the matter (8). The bill was drafted by California Senator Anthony Portantino and his team, and was backed by a 219 page research and information booklet containing empirical evidence and relevant articles that directly support the bill (9). The opponents of this bill won yet again, squashing several adolescent sleep researchers’ hope that one day teens will be lawfully granted the opportunity to obtain sufficient sleep during the school year. 

There are several reasons as to why many are still against a change to school start times, but most of these reasons are assuaged by legitimate empirical evidence. The main push against this bill comes from school officials who believe that shifting school start times will complicate bus schedules and cost schools a fortune to accommodate later transportation. A recent economic analysis conducted by the Rand Corporation, a non-profit think tank located in Santa Monica, California, evinced that such a policy would actually result in a significant gain to the U.S. economy as a whole: $8.6 billion in 2 years and $140 billion after 15 years, to be exact (10). It was also projected that there would be an increase in students’ academic performances as well as a decrease in the rate of car accidents caused by teens. In sum, the cost of shifting bus schedules to accommodate a new and improved school start time would be far outweighed by the benefits it would bring to adolescents’ lives and the long-term economic profit. 

Others have argued that pushing school start times would not increase teens’ time in bed, rather their sleep schedules would shift to later such that they would maintain low sleep duration. Research shows that this is simply not true. Researchers in Canada were given the unique opportunity to study a high school with two different school start times (11). A devastating fire destroyed a suburban high school forcing the students from that school to attend another nearing high school amidst repairs. In order to accommodate all of the students, the host high school implemented two school start times in which the students from the destroyed high school attended class from 1:25PM-6:45PM and students from the host high school maintained their usual schedule from 7:40AM-1:05PM. Results suggested that adolescents who attended the later school schedule demonstrated increased sleep duration and less daytime sleepiness. Additionally, it was not only the evening chronotype teens who benefitted from the delayed start time. Even students with a morning chronotype—those who naturally tend to wake-up earlier—who were on the morning school schedule reported significantly more daytime sleepiness compared to morning chronotype students who were on the afternoon schedule. Overall, these results indicate that pushing school start times would not result in continued low sleep duration, but rather it would benefit all students, even those with a morning chronotype. 

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement urging policymakers and politicians to push school start times to no earlier than 8:30AM, citing significant research demonstrating that an 8:30AM start would buy students more sleep time (12). Since then, even more evidence has emerged of the benefits that such a change would yield not only for students, but for the country as a whole. It has been four years and nothing has been done despite copious amounts of empirical evidence that supports this adaptation. The resistance emerges from logistical concerns that are unrelated to teens and their well-being, such as bus schedules and parents’ work schedules. Are these inconveniences not undermined by the importance of maintaining and supporting adolescent health? The answer is obvious, and, although it is not perfect, so is the solution. 

1. Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., … & Neubauer, D. N. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: Methodology and results summary.  Sleep Health ,  1 (1), 40-43. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010

2. Dewald, J. F., Meijer, A. M., Oort, F. J., Kerkhof, G. A., & Bögels, S. M. (2010). The influence of sleep quality, sleep duration and sleepiness on school performance in children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review.  Sleep Medicine Reviews ,  14 (3), 179-189. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2009.10.004

3. Wolfson, A. R., & Carskadon, M. A. (2003). Understanding adolescent’s sleep patterns and school performance: A critical appraisal.  Sleep Medicine Reviews ,  7 (6), 491-506. doi: 10.1016/S1087-0792(03)90003-7 

4. Roenneberg, T., Kuehnle, T., Pramstaller, P. P., Ricken, J., Havel, M., Guth, A., & Merrow, M. (2004). A marker for the end of adolescence.  Current Biology ,  14 (24), R1038-R1039. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2004.11.039 

5. Roenneberg, T., Wirz-Justice, A., & Merrow, M. (2003). Life between clocks: Daily temporal patterns of human chronotypes.  Journal of Biological Rhythms ,  18 (1), 80-90. doi: 10.1177/0748730402239679

6. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey, public school data file, 2011–12. Additional information available at  http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/overview.asp .

7.  http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB328

8.  http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-school-start-time-vetoed-20180921-story.html#

9.  https://sd25.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd25.senate.ca.gov/files/research_booklet_sb_328_pdf.pdf

10. Hafner, M., Stepanek, M., Troxel, W.M. (2017) Later school start times in the U.S.: An economic analysis. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2109.html.

11. Martin, J. S., Gaudreault, M. M., Perron, M., & Laberge, L. (2016). Chronotype, light exposure, sleep, and daytime functioning in high school students attending morning or afternoon school shifts: An actigraphic study.  Journal of Biological Rhythms ,  31 (2), 205-217. doi: 10.1177/0748730415625510

12. Adolescent Sleep Working Group. (2014). School start times for adolescents.  Pediatrics , 134 (3), 642-649. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-1697

Photo Credit: National Geographic

The Case for Later School Start Times: Benefits for Students and Society

This essay discusses the benefits of starting school later in the morning. It highlights how aligning school schedules with the natural sleep patterns of teenagers can improve their mental and physical health, enhance academic performance, and create safer communities. The essay presents evidence showing that later start times can reduce sleep deprivation, improve cognitive functions, and decrease risks of depression and anxiety among students. Additionally, it addresses potential logistical challenges and suggests that the long-term benefits outweigh these initial hurdles. The essay concludes that a shift to later school start times is a necessary change for the well-being and success of students.

How it works

Over the past few years, the topic of school start times has been a hotly debated issue among educators, parents, and policymakers. The traditional early morning schedule has been a longstanding norm in our education system, yet a growing body of evidence suggests that this may not be in the best interest of students. Starting school later in the morning could bring about a host of benefits that range from improved mental and physical health to better academic performance and even broader societal advantages.

It’s time we take a closer look at why schools should start later.

First and foremost, we need to understand the biological rhythms of teenagers. Adolescence is marked by significant changes in sleep patterns due to the shift in the body’s circadian rhythms. During these years, it becomes naturally harder for teenagers to fall asleep early and wake up early. The American Academy of Pediatrics has pointed out that middle and high schools should ideally start at 8:30 AM or later to align with these natural sleep patterns. Despite these recommendations, many schools still start before 8 AM, which forces students to wake up too early and often function on insufficient sleep. This chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious consequences, including increased risks of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. By shifting school start times to a later hour, we can help students get the rest they need, which is crucial for their overall well-being.

The impact of sleep on mental health cannot be overstated. Teenagers are already navigating a tumultuous period of growth and development, and lack of sleep only exacerbates the stress they experience. Insufficient sleep has been linked to higher rates of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. When students are well-rested, they are better equipped to handle the emotional and social challenges that come with adolescence. They are more resilient, have better emotional regulation, and are generally in a better mood. In essence, later school start times can significantly enhance the mental health and emotional stability of students.

Moreover, the academic benefits of later school start times are substantial. Numerous studies have shown that when students get adequate sleep, they are better able to concentrate, retain information, and perform well on tests. Sleep-deprived students, on the other hand, struggle with cognitive functions such as memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking. A notable study by the University of Minnesota found that schools with later start times reported higher grades, improved attendance, and reduced tardiness. These academic improvements are not just advantageous for individual students but also for the educational system as a whole. Higher academic performance leads to increased graduation rates and more students being well-prepared for college and future careers.

In addition to individual benefits, there are broader societal implications to consider. Later school start times can contribute to safer communities. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has highlighted that sleep-deprived teenagers are more likely to be involved in car accidents. This is particularly relevant for high school students who drive. By starting school later, the number of drowsy driving incidents among teenagers can be reduced, thereby decreasing the overall number of traffic accidents. Additionally, well-rested students are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, which further contributes to a safer and healthier community.

Critics of later school start times often point to logistical challenges, such as the impact on after-school activities, transportation, and family schedules. While these concerns are valid, many schools that have adopted later start times have found effective solutions to address these issues. For example, adjusting the schedules of extracurricular activities, coordinating transportation more efficiently, and engaging with the community to develop workable solutions have all proven successful in various districts. It’s important to note that the long-term benefits of improved student health and academic performance far outweigh the initial logistical hurdles. Schools that have made the shift to later start times report that the benefits quickly become apparent and the community adapts to the new schedule.

Furthermore, the financial implications of later school start times are worth considering. Studies have suggested that the economic benefits of better academic performance and higher graduation rates can lead to significant long-term savings. Healthier students mean lower healthcare costs, and safer teenage drivers mean fewer accidents and insurance claims. In the bigger picture, the investment in shifting school start times could result in substantial economic gains for the community.

The movement toward later school start times is not just a fleeting trend but a necessary evolution in our approach to education and student welfare. As more research underscores the importance of sleep for adolescent development, it becomes increasingly clear that early school start times are misaligned with the needs of students. Embracing a later start time can foster an environment where students are healthier, more engaged, and better prepared for the challenges of both academia and life beyond the classroom.

Another significant aspect to consider is the role of parents and the community in supporting this change. Parental involvement and community support are crucial in making the transition to later start times successful. Educating parents about the benefits of sufficient sleep and the positive impact it has on their children’s overall health and academic performance can help garner their support. Community leaders and policymakers also play a vital role in facilitating this change by advocating for policies that prioritize student well-being and education.

It is also essential to look at the experiences of schools that have successfully implemented later start times. These case studies can provide valuable insights and best practices for other schools considering the change. Schools that have made the switch often report an initial period of adjustment followed by noticeable improvements in student behavior, mood, and academic performance. Sharing these success stories can help build momentum and support for broader adoption of later start times.

In conclusion, the evidence in favor of later school start times is compelling and multifaceted. By aligning school schedules with the natural sleep patterns of teenagers, we can support their mental and physical health, enhance academic performance, and contribute to safer and more vibrant communities. The benefits of such a change extend beyond the individual to society as a whole, making it a worthwhile investment in the future of our students. It is time for educators, policymakers, and parents to recognize the profound benefits of later start times and take action to ensure that our educational practices reflect the best interests of our students.

Making this shift requires commitment and collaboration, but the potential rewards are immense. By prioritizing the health and well-being of our students, we are laying the foundation for a brighter, more successful future for all. Let’s embrace this change and work together to create an education system that truly supports the needs of our young people.


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The Benefits of Later School Start Times

Even for online instruction, later start times are optimal, a new study finds..

Posted August 23, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

  • Why Is Sleep Important?
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  • The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted schooling in many ways and school districts have created different instructional models.
  • A study in a prominent journal reports how children in 6-12 grades nationwide have adjusted to different kinds of classes.
  • Having online classes meant that more adolescents were able to obtain sufficient sleep than when they had to attend in person.

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In a previous post, I mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic would provide much useful information about sleep habits, sleep needs, and the daily functioning of children. With the vast majority of schools conducting all or some classes online during the 2020-21 school year, the reduction of time required to get ready for school, along with the elimination of morning commutes, meant that students would not necessarily have to get up as early to start the school day.

A study just published in the journal Sleep provides data from over 5,000 students in grades 6-12 from all over the U.S. Students were either in (a) in-person classes; (b) online live classes with teacher interactions; or (c) online but without live classes or teacher interactions. Some students had “hybrid” instructional models with some in-person days and some online. Students reported the time their classes started in 30-minute intervals from “before 7:00 AM” to “after 9:30 AM.” They also reported their bedtimes and rise times, bedtime and rise time consistency (day-to-day variation), and bedtime routines, including the use of technological devices before going to bed.

How Start Times Affected Sleep

As expected, the time that the school day started (whether in-person or online) affected how much sleep was reported. With earlier starts, both bedtimes and wake times were earlier. On average, bedtimes for online live classes were around half an hour later than for in-person classes. For middle school students, a start time between 8:30 and 9:00 AM resulted in a greater number of students getting sufficient sleep (defined as at least 9 hours).

Of note is that only about a third of middle school students had start times this late. Only around half of the high school students who got sufficient sleep had in-person start times later than 8:30. There was considerable night-to-night variability in sleep, especially in the hybrid models, since students had to get up earlier for in-person days. In past research, more variability in sleep schedules has been associated with negative mood and behavior outcomes in children and adolescents.

These data have implications for the hard decisions many school districts have faced regarding start times for school. A great many districts have followed the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics for start times no earlier than 8:30 AM for middle and high school students and the results reported here indicate that such start times afford the opportunity for more sleep. The results also indicate that even for online instruction, starting at 8:30 or later is more optimal. Reducing day-to-day variation in start times for online classes is also a goal that school districts should consider.

What Does This Mean for Younger Children?

As I have mentioned numerous times in previous posts, start times for younger children (grades K-6) have received very little attention from researchers, and this recent study is illustrative of that point. In a majority of cases when school districts move middle and high school start times later, elementary start times are moved earlier, and we have no idea if very early start times are beneficial or at least not harmful for young children. Since younger children need more sleep, having an earlier start requires an earlier rise time to allow for preparation and commute.

There are individual differences in sleep needs by age, but guidelines typically call for 10-13 hours for preschoolers age 3-5 and 9-12 hours for children 6-12. For example, if a first or second grader’s school begins at 7:30 AM, they might have to be asleep before 8:00 PM to get sufficient sleep before waking early enough to get ready and commute to school.

Meltzer, L. J., Saletin, J. M., Honaker, S. M., Owens, J. A., Seixas, A., Wahlstrom, K. L., ... & Carskadon, M. A. (2021). COVID-19 instructional approaches (in-person, online, hybrid), school start times, and sleep in over 5,000 US adolescents. Sleep. zsab180, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsab180

Joseph A. Buckhalt Ph.D.

Joseph A. Buckhalt, Ph.D. , is Wayne T. Smith Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Auburn University. He and his colleague Mona El-Sheikh, Ph.D. conduct research on sleep, health, and development in children and adolescents.

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Argumentative Essay: Later School Start Times

High school students are getting affected by their own school start time. High school students should get more sleep because it will help with mental health, grades, and driving. More teen car crashes happen when teens don’t get enough sleep. And that can also lower your grades by not being able to focus and not being able to keep track of the lesson. A lot or most teens turn to drugs when they get affected by not sleeping or bad grades. Their attitude may also change in a bad way. 

First of all not getting enough sleep can affect you in many ways but your mental health is most impacted. Getting more sleep can affect you positively, and one way is improving your health. By schools starting later, it helps teens get more sleep, so they won’t be sleep-deprived and stressed. Sleep-deprived teens tend to do drugs more than a regular student that gets enough sleep. Doing drugs messes up your mental health, by getting addicted or for long-term effects. Long-term effects can include lung disease, heart disease, and even mental illnesses. Also getting less than 9 hours of sleep can cause depression and diabetes. Even though not getting enough sleep can cause many other things besides tiredness, that’s only one reason to have schools start later. 

As a result of High Schools starting later the student's grades went up, and drug use lowered significantly. If the students have no reason to be tired, their grades will go up. That means more study time and more time to rest your brain. And you won’t fall asleep in class, and you'll be able to pay attention.  Studies also show that if teens can’t get up before 8 am, it comes with big academic consequences. The adolescent's inability to be fully awake before then is a matter of human biology, not a matter of attitude. Overall to help your grades you need sleep.  

Lastly, the rate of car crashes declined almost immediately after school started later. Teens were finally able to get the rest they needed to drive to school and focus on the road. Teen car crashes were also the primary death for teenagers. That shows that even just an hour or a little more can make a big difference. In Wyoming, in 2013 the teenage car crash rate dropped 70% in the first year. That is a significant rate to plummet in just a short amount of time. 

And finally to sum it all up, having a later High School start time helps High School students' mental health, grades, and driving. As shown, less sleep can make you tend to do drugs and decline your grades. Even getting into a car crash is more likely, with less rest. Getting your nightly rest is better for you than you know.

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Opinion: Delaying school start times literally saves student lives

School buses.

Starting middle and high school later reduces absences, improves health and increases graduation rates.

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Lawlor is CEO of SleepScore Labs and lives in Carmel Valley. Watson is chair of the SleepScore Labs Scientific Advisory board, is director of the Harborview Medical Center Sleep Clinic and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. He lives in Seattle.

A month into many school districts’ fall semesters, the understanding of what the full year may look like is still deeply uncertain. States are seeing a steady uptick in COVID-19 cases, mask mandates are being put back on the table, and while the school year has started with in-person education in many districts, we all know it could shift on a dime again.

It’s definitely been a challenge for both parents and kids to continually change their schedules and patterns, but with more remote work options and the ever-shifting ground that is “in-person versus remote learning” still ahead of us, why not take advantage of this opportunity to enact a change for the greater health and wellness of our children?

While the case for delaying school start times for kids is nothing new, implementing it continues to challenge many districts across the country. California became the first state to enact a law mandating later school start times in 2019, to begin high school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle school no earlier than 8 a.m. But statewide policy changes elsewhere have proven nearly impossible to enact, and there are legitimate concerns some parents have about misaligned schedules between work and child care. In California, schools have until July 2022 to comply with the new law. Therefore, the responsibility has landed in the laps of local school districts. Across the nation, there are already several progressive and responsible school districts that are making these changes on behalf of their students — and why wouldn’t they?

There is no other single policy change with such tremendous benefits to students than delaying school start times and the time is ripe for lasting policy change that could reap significant health benefits in our children for years to come.

Delaying middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later would reduce tardiness and school absences, improve adolescent health and psychological well-being, improve adolescent driving safety, reduce risky behaviors and increase graduation rates. This policy measure will also increase job satisfaction for all faculty and staff, which will uplift the educational experience for their students. Sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t.

As children progress into their teenage years, they experience delayed patterns of melatonin secretion and a slower buildup of sleep need as they progress through the day. These changes reflect a delayed circadian rhythm that contributes to later sleep onset and later morning awakening, with teenagers typically struggling to fall asleep before 11 p.m.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Because sleep onset is not instantaneous, and it is normal to spend some time awake in bed during the sleep period, a teenager who goes to bed at 11 p.m. would need to sleep until 7:30 a.m. or later in order to obtain sufficient sleep. Early middle school and high school start times work contrary to this change in adolescent circadian physiology and truncate students’ sleep opportunity, resulting in chronic sleep loss.

Presently, 68.4 percent of U.S. high school students sleep seven hours or less on school nights, which is associated with poor school performance, obesity, metabolic dysfunction and cardiovascular morbidity, increased depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, risk-taking behaviors, athletic injuries, and increased motor vehicle accident risk. Motor vehicle crashes account for 35 percent of all deaths and 73 percent of deaths from unintentional injury in teenagers. Delaying adolescent school start times will increase total sleep time and reduce daytime sleepiness. It also increases engagement in classroom activities, reduces first-hour tardiness and absences, and reduces depressive symptoms and irritability. A 60-minute delay in school start times also reduces crash rates by 16.5 percent.

As we continue to grapple with the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the many adjustments it continues to lay in our hands, school districts should look at this as a unique opportunity to enact change which will maximize the educational experience of every student in their district.

Anyone interested in the education, health and well-being of adolescents should support delaying middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.

The time has never been more favorable for a shift like this, and if cemented now, can help children succeed in academics and life for years to come.

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FILE - This combination of two file photos shows Xochitl Galvez, left, arriving to register her name as a presidential candidate on July 4, 2023, in Mexico City, and Claudia Sheinbaum, right, at an event that presented her as her party's presidential nominee on Sept. 6, 2023, in Mexico City. The two women, considered the frontrunners in Mexico's presidential election, discussed social spending and climate change in the race's second debate Sunday, April 28, 2024, which also included Jorge Álvarez Máynez. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

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Home — Essay Samples — Education — Starting School Later — Why Should School Start Later: Negative Effects of Early School Start


Why Should School Start Later: Negative Effects of Early School Start

  • Categories: High School Starting School Later Student

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Words: 1679 |

Updated: 3 November, 2023

Words: 1679 | Pages: 4 | 9 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, why should school start later, works cited, video version.

  • Carskadon, M. A., & Acebo, C. (2002). Regulation of sleepiness in adolescents: update, insights, and speculation. Sleep, 25(6), 606-614.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Schools start too early. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/index.html
  • Danner, F., & Phillips, B. (2008). Adolescent sleep, school start times, and teen motor vehicle crashes. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 4(6), 533-535.
  • Gruber, R., Somerville, G., Enros, P., Paquin, S., Kestenberg, J., & Carrier, J. (2016). Sleep efficiency (but not sleep duration) of healthy adolescents is greater with later school start times. Sleep, 39(2), 349-356.
  • Hagenauer, M. H., Perryman, J. I., Lee, T. M., & Carskadon, M. A. (2009). Adolescent changes in the homeostatic and circadian regulation of sleep. Developmental Neuroscience, 31(4), 276-284.
  • Minges, K. E., & Redeker, N. S. (2016). Delayed school start times and adolescent sleep: A systematic review of the experimental evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 28, 86-95.
  • Owens, J. A., Belon, K., & Moss, P. (2010). Impact of delaying school start time on adolescent sleep, mood, and behavior. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 164(7), 608-614.
  • Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D'Ambrosio, C., Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., ... & Wise, M. S. (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(6), 785-786.
  • Wahlstrom, K. L., & Dretzke, B. (2009). Changing times: Findings from the first longitudinal study of later high school start times. NASSP Bulletin, 93(4), 1-22.
  • Wheaton, A. G., Ferro, G. A., Croft, J. B., & School start times and insufficient sleep among high school students—United States, 2015–2017. (2018). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 67(3), 85-90.

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The 2023-24 academic year is coming to a close, and we have a post describing 10 ways to reflect on these last months and learn from them. But the 10 ways aren’t just for students — we also hope teachers can benefit from them. In fact, we would be delighted if teachers and students did some of the exercises together and told us what happened!

We invite you to post a comment reflecting on any aspect of this school year that you would like to make public, and we have provided some questions below to get you started.

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  1. School Start Times, Sleep, Behavioral, Health, and Academic Outcomes: a Review of the Literature

    In 2007 and 2008, the teen crash rates were significantly higher in the city with an earlier school start time. 87 For both cities, teen crashes peaked during the morning commute time. 87 The group went on to perform similar analyses for two adjacent counties in central Virginia with different school start times. 88 During the 2009-2010 ...

  2. Later school times promote adolescent well-being

    Delaying start times. Though comprehensive national statistics on school start times are not available, it is common for American public high schools to begin their instructional day between 7-8 a.m. Research has shown that these early bell times are responsible for the discrepancy between how much sleep teens need and how much sleep they get ...

  3. School Start Times Should Be Later: [Essay Example], 455 words

    In conclusion, school start times actually decrease the kids performance in school or sports. The average school start time is 7:30am and the time we should go to school is 9:00 a.m or around them. The early start times can lower depression, drug use, performance, and fewer car crashes. "Once these school districts change, they don't want to ...

  4. Reconsidering School Start Times: [Essay Example], 678 words

    The issue of school start times dates back to the early 20th century when schools typically began classes in the early morning hours. However, research in recent years has shown that early start times may not be in the best interest of students. Studies have found that adolescents have a natural tendency to stay up later at night and sleep in ...

  5. 7 Key Reasons Why School Should Start Later: A Full Analysis

    7. Reduced Stress. The stress induced by early mornings and lack of sleep can significantly affect students' academic and social lives. By moving the start of the school day later, schools can alleviate a major source of daily stress, contributing to a healthier, more conducive learning environment.

  6. What new research tells us about elementary and middle school start times

    This includes analyses of an urban district that shifted many elementary school start times from 9:00am to 7:45am or 8:30am, as well as statewide analyses of start times in elementary and middle ...

  7. 4 Benefits of Later School Start Times

    Here are some of the benefits of later school start times: Better mental and physical health. Improved academic outcomes. Reduced risk of car accidents and injuries. Less tardiness. READ ...

  8. What We Think About School Start Times

    83% of U.S. public high schools started before 8:30 a.m. in 2020. 44.2% of surveyed parents say they like school start times the way they are, with 34.8% wanting later starts and 21% seeking earlier ones. 69.2% of parents and guardians say their school-age children were getting sufficient sleep this past school year.

  9. Argumentative Essay on School Start Times

    The time a school starts can majorly affect many students. Most schools in the U.S start before 8:30, schools should begin around 8:00 and no sooner than that. Beginning later will have a constructive outcome. Some say different that this ought not to occur because of the cost it takes to roll out that improvement but generally this will make ...

  10. Should School Start Later?

    The Science of Sleep. In the U.S., the average start time for middle and high schools is a few minutes after 8 a.m. It hasn't always been this way, though. A century ago, most schools started around 9 a.m. Then in the 1970s, districts began shifting to earlier schedules for teens, with elementary age kids starting later.

  11. Should Your School Day Start Later?

    Another study, published in 2017 by the University of Minnesota, which surveyed 9,000 students across five school districts with varying start times, found that those who started school later ...

  12. Why both teens and teachers could benefit from later school start times

    So a later school start time could help to solve this problem, by ensuring teenagers get their eight plus hours of sleep and react properly to their body's natural rhythms. The American Academy ...

  13. 15 Reasons Why School Should Start Earlier (Top Benefits!)

    However, there are plenty of debate arguments for why school should actually start earlier. Here are 10 possible reasons why schools should stick with an earlier start time. Cuts transportation costs. Gets students to school faster. Has benefits for work schedules. Lets districts pool resources more effectively.

  14. The debate on pushing school start times: Is there a perfect solution

    In 2017, California considered a bill asserting that school start times for middle schools and high schools, both public and charter, cannot begin before 8:30AM (7). Ultimately the bill was not passed, however, it was recently revisited this year. Last week, California governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill claiming that it is a "one-size-fits ...

  15. The Case for Later School Start Times: Benefits for Students and

    Essay Example: Over the past few years, the topic of school start times has been a hotly debated issue among educators, parents, and policymakers. ... The essay concludes that a shift to later school start times is a necessary change for the well-being and success of students. Category: Education. Date added: 2024/06/01. Words: 1144.

  16. The Benefits of Later School Start Times

    For middle school students, a start time between 8:30 and 9:00 AM resulted in a greater number of students getting sufficient sleep (defined as at least 9 hours). Of note is that only about a ...

  17. Argumentative Essay: Later School Start Times

    And finally to sum it all up, having a later High School start time helps High School students' mental health, grades, and driving. As shown, less sleep can make you tend to do drugs and decline your grades. Even getting into a car crash is more likely, with less rest. Getting your nightly rest is better for you than you know.

  18. Why School Should Start Later (Free Essay Sample)

    In this argumentative essay, I would like to share why high school should start later in the morning highlight some of its most notable benefits. An early school day affects the overall learning environment. Students who do not get the right amount of sleep, only to deal with early school times, arrive groggy, cranky, and sleepy.

  19. PDF Argumentative Essay

    Argumentative Essay - School Start Times . Current research suggests that because teenagers have different sleep patterns , they would benefit from beginning the school day at a later time. Some are in favor of this change, while others oppose it. Read the following seven sources carefully, including the introductory information for each source.

  20. Opinion: Delaying school start times literally saves student lives

    California became the first state to enact a law mandating later school start times in 2019, to begin high school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle school no earlier than 8 a.m.

  21. Why Should School Start Later: Negative Effects of Early School Start

    Some schools have already changed their start times later and they have gotten good results out of it. In Minnesota, when start times were later, students got higher grades, behaved better, and had fewer absences and tardies. When they changed their start times from 7:15 to 8:40 a.m. it affected more than 12,000 students.

  22. School Start Times Essay

    Satisfactory Essays. 290 Words. 2 Pages. Open Document. School Start Times. "Sleep is the best cognitive enhancer we have," according to Russell Foster Ph.D. who is the Professor of Circadian Neurosciences. This was used in an article by schoolstarttime.org Many students are not receiving the appropriate amount of sleep which is affecting ...

  23. How Did You Grow and Change This School Year ...

    May 20, 2024. The 2023-24 academic year is coming to a close, and we have a post describing 10 ways to reflect on these last months and learn from them. But the 10 ways aren't just for students ...