High Schools Hit The Snooze Alarm

Maybe you should let your groggy teen sleep in. Better yet, maybe parents of teenagers should consider advocating a later start to the school day in general. Recent research demonstrates that just a 30 minute delay to start to the school day would be useful in improving adolescents’ physical and mental health.

A team of researchers led by Judith A. Owens examined the sleep habits of 200 students at a small Rhode Island high school.  They asked students to fill out a survey about their sleep habits and mood, and then complete a similar survey again after the school administration moved back the start of its day one half hour from 8 to 8:30 am. According to the Associated Press, “the results were so impressive that the school made the change permanent.”

On average, the students increased their nightly sleep duration by 45 minutes. Although the students’ bedtimes did not change much, most of them used the extra half hour in the morning to get some extra sleep.  Event though 89% of the students still slept less than the 9 hours recommended for teenagers, the number of students receiving at least 8 hours of sleep improved a staggering amount from 16% to 55%.  Plus, the amount of students who slept less than 7 hours on school nights lowered by nearly 80%.  In addition to experiencing less daytime fatigue, students also indicated having less depressive feelings.  Not surprising since there have been other studies that show a link between depression and sleep deprivation.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 15% of teenage students receive an adequate amount of sleep on school nights, depriving them of the alertness necessary to maximize their educational experiences. Although this case study followed just one school, the findings comply with a series of previous studies that also advocate for pushing back the start of school for teenagers.  By allowing teenagers more sleep time, they are more attentive in class, happier overall, and less likely to become obese.  A half-hour later start to school seems like a dream for parents too. Isn’t it about time we adjusted our kids’ schedules to help them become smarter, healthier adults?

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