Later Start Times For High School Students

Later start times could improve sleep schedules for high school students. Photo credit:

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that high schoolers don’t get as much sleep as they should—
anyone living with a teenager is all too familiar with the late nights and tired mornings. The
National Sleep Foundation estimates that teenagers require eight to ten hours of sleep, but in
fact many teenagers sleep far less. According to the CDC, about three quarters of US teens
“got 8 or more hours of sleep on an average school night.”
However, the teenagers may not be entirely to blame for their sleeplessness. After all, as
children enter adolescence, their internal clocks shift later and later, making it difficult for
teenagers to fall asleep in time for the coming school day. As students’ sleep schedules get
later, their school start times become earlier—in most school districts, high schools start earlier
than middle schools or elementary schools.
It seems like an impossible situation. Students can’t go to bed earlier (their brains aren’t wired
to), and they can’t wake up later either (they’d be late to school). There is, however, a solution:
later school start times. If high school started later to match teenage sleep schedules, it would
be far easier for students to get the correct amount of sleep. Unfortunately, implementing this
solution is not as simple as it may seem. Many school districts use the same busses for
elementary, middle and high schools; this would be impossible if the schools started at the
same time, substantially increasing costs. Also, later start times would result in later end times,
reducing time for sports, clubs, and other activities.
While switching to later start times is not a perfect solution, its benefits still make it an option
worth of careful consideration in school districts.