Later school start times, more sleep for teens

As adolescents transition through puberty, their natural sleep rhythms begin to shift, causing them to fall asleep and wake up later than younger children. Most US middle and high schools start before 8:30 a.m., making it difficult for teens to get sufficient sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have issued statements in favor of later school start times for middle and high school students, citing the negative impacts insufficient sleep can have on adolescents' mental and physical health.

In a 2015 Mott Poll, 88% of parents said their teens' schools start before 8:30 a.m. About half of those parents said they would support moving the start of the school day back to 8:30 or later.

According to parents:

  • The potential benefits of a later start time would be improved academic performance (22%) and more sleep for their teens (40%).
  • The challenges of a later start time would be a negative impact on transportation (14%) and not enough time for after-school activities (22%).

Parents' perceptions of impact of later school start times for teens

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For teens with early start times, parents can help them get better sleep by making some adjustments to their sleep habits. A C.S. Mott Children's Hospital adolescent medicine physician, Dr. Ellen Selkie, suggests helping teens get better sleep by removing all technology from the bedroom, drinking less caffeine, and avoiding after-school napping.