The Major Benefits Of Later School Start Times

Schools across the nation are implementing a later school start time because of these well-documented benefits.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

Kids That Walk To School Live Healthier Lives As Adults

school start time

Teenagers need more sleep than most people. This is due to the developmental changes affecting their brains and bodies. Now some districts are considering the major benefits of instituting a later school start time. 

It’s no secret that teenagers love to sleep in. Compared to the average 10-year-old, teenagers need an additional hour or more. While the traditional eight hours of sleep has been promoted for years, growing teens need between nine and nine and a half. When taking this into consideration, later school start times afford parents the ability to give high school students the added sleep they require to properly function. 

Not only does a delayed school start time help students catch up on sleep, but it also prevents student tardiness and traffic accidents. Teens are less sleep deprived when class begins later. They get up and get ready for school without rushing off to class or missing the roll call. Because there is less rushing involved, student drivers are more careful not to speed and less distracted. As if that weren’t helpful enough, sports-related injuries are also reduced. This has been linked to players getting enough sleep to make more accurate moves.

The benefits of a later school start time do not end there. Attendance and academic outcomes are also improved. In North Carolina, studies involving middle schools with various start times confirmed that students who started school later achieved higher test scores. Math rates were raised by two percentile points, and English was up 1.5 points. This is due to healthier sleep habits and morning routines but also improved mental health. 

One of the most valuable aspects of a later school start time is the positive effect on mental health. According to the CDC, 60% of middle school students were not getting enough sleep in 2015, and 70% of high schoolers did not. How these numbers have shifted throughout the years is unknown, but a lack of sleep has led many students to experience higher rates of frustration leading to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.  

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised that high schools should not start class before 8:30 am. Despite this, the average high school start time in 2017 was 8 am, and as many as 10% of schools started before 7:30. This disrupts students’ ability to get proper rest and come to class fully prepared to learn. 

school start time

In order to better serve students, California has taken the lead and mandated that high school cannot begin before 8:30 am. In addition, middle school is not allowed to begin before 8 am. These delayed school start times are expected to help students get ready for the day without rushing or missing the sleep they need. 

Albert Einstein College of Medicine psychologist and clinical associate professor, Shelby Harris, admitted that research displays that later school start times encourage students to get more sleep. This directly improves their mental well-being and encourages them to do better in school. There is also more time to eat breakfast and get to school with less stress. 

Later school start times are improving students’ performance, mental health, and overall safety. Attendance is increased and proper eating habits become easier to maintain. The many benefits of starting school later are being proven, and now schools are starting to take note as they adjust their schedules accordingly.