A slight change to high school start times may make a big impact on wakefulness and academic performance. A study published in the July issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine is the latest to show why starting school near dawn may not be in the students’ best interest.
Improvements were across the board when a boarding school in Rhode Island pushed start times forward from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Student felt more motivated when they were satisfied with sleep. Mood-related problems such as depression dropped, attendance improved and fewer students visited the nurse’s office with fatigue-related complaints.
By pushing forward start times by only 30 minutes the average night sleep increased by 45 minutes. Students went to sleep only about 18 minutes later. More than half of students slept for more than eight hours per night. More than three-quarters of normally sleep-deprived students reported getting more than seven hours of sleep per night.
The study involved 201 high-schooled aged participants. Each completed an online survey about sleep habits twice: before and after the school switched start times.
Classes may start as early as 7 a.m. in some U.S. schools. Student athletes may be required to report to school well before daybreak for practice.
The effect of various school start times is a hot topic in the sleep research community. Recent studies show early classes may be making students depressed. One well-publicized article links earlier start times to dangerous driving.
Adolescents and teenagers have different sleep architecture from adults and require more sleep. High school-aged students are more likely to be night owls and have difficulty sleeping in the evening. The AASM reports teenagers should get about 9 hours of sleep per night.