Is It Time to Start School Later?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teenagers are notoriously difficult to rouse in the morning, as parents know well. Our teens' struggle to "rise and shine" in the early morning hours isn't really about adolescent obstinacy or laziness. Teens are biologically driven to these sleep-in, stay-up-late schedules -- routines that can frustrate parents and make early school mornings challenging for everybody. What if the remedy lies not in attempting to change teens' sleep routines, but in making adjustments to the requirements of their daily schedules?

New research indicates that even a small delay in school start times can have a significant effect on teenagers' sleep, as well as on their waking mood and daytime habits. Researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center in Rhode Island studied the impact of a 25-minute delay in school start time on adolescents' sleep patterns, daytime sleepiness, and mood, as well as daytime habits including caffeine consumption. The study included 197 high school students attending an independent boarding school. Researchers collected data about sleep habits during a winter term when school start time was delayed from 8 a.m. to 8:25 a.m. They found this modest adjustment to the beginning of the school day was associated with significant changes to sleep and waking mood:

- Students' overall sleep duration increased significantly when their school day began 25 minutes later. Total sleep time increased by an average of 29 minutes.

Read more