Sleep deprivation among teenagers has been associated with consequences such as a lack of focus, poor grades and mental health issues. And now a study has shown that teenagers could benefit from starting school later.
According to a study published by Science Advances, researchers found that students who slept more achieved better grades and had improved attendance in school.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, the Seattle School District delayed secondary school start time by nearly an hour, from 7.50am to 8.45am.
Researchers at the University of Washington conducted their study both before and after the change of school start time, finding that students enjoyed 34 minutes more sleep on average with the later school start time.
The study included students from two public high schools in Seattle.
This resulted in increasing their total nightly sleep from six hours and 50 minutes to seven hours and 24 minutes.
“These results demonstrate that delaying high school start times brings students closer to reaching the recommended sleep amount and reverses the century-long trend in gradual sleep loss,” said the study.
“There is evidence that adolescents in most industrialised societies do not achieve the recommended…nine hours of daily sleep during school days, which is consistent with estimates that in the past 100 years, sleep has shortened by about one hour in children.”
Researchers also found the later school start time to be associated with reduced sleepiness, increased academic performance and an increase in punctuality and attendance.
However, this was only evident in the economically disadvantaged school which “could decrease the learning gap between low and high socioeconomic groups,” they wrote.
But according to NPR, “Seattle’s switch to later start times is still unusual for school districts around the country, where school typically starts around 8 a.m.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that “a substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement.”
The statement then urged middle and high schools “to aim for start times that allow students the opportunity to achieve optimal levels of sleep (8.5–9.5 hours) and to improve physical (e.g. reduced obesity risk) and mental (e.g. lower rates of depression) health, safety (e.g. drowsy driving crashes), academic performance, and quality of life.”