Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.
A significant number of elementary, middle, and high school students are failing to get enough sleep, which can take a serious toll on their academic performance. Adjusting school start times to begin later has been advocated in school districts across the country, but what is often not considered is how that change might affect the parents of students.
In a new study, researchers have found that the benefit of a later school start time doesn’t just benefit students — it also allows parents to catch up on much-needed rest.
By surveying parents in a Colorado school district, the study found that parents of high school students could achieve up to 60 extra hours of sleep over the course of a school year when the school start time was shifted by 70 minutes.
Parents self-reported sleep data including bedtime and wake times, sleep duration, perceived sleep quality, and feeling tired. These surveys were conducted annually — prior to the start time shift, then twice after the start time change.
Only 64%-74% of adults across Colorado were obtaining sufficient sleep prior to the start time shift, according to the study. Comparatively, reports of “feeling tired quite a bit/very much” decreased by over 10% for elementary and middle school parents, and by over 7% for parents with high school students.
After the start time change, parents with at least one secondary student also reported obtaining greater sleep duration with the later school start times. Of the studied school district’s secondary parents, roughly 82% continued to report sufficient sleep duration.
Both the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that both middle and high schools begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., which illustrates the overwhelming evidence that allowing families to sleep more improves the education experience across the board.
While remote learning and hybrid classes took a negative toll on students’ sleep in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this first-of-its-kind study shows that by adjusting school start times, there can be an immediate impact on the families of students as well.