Teenagers’ schedules seem to be stuffed full these days. With school, homework, after-school activities and even jobs, it’s no wonder only 32 percent of American teenagers get a least eight hours of sleep each night. In fact, doctors have studied the effects this kind of sleep deficit has on the adolescent body and mind, and it’s led the American Medical Association to release a new policy recommending schools start later to allow teens to get more sleep.
School officials in Seattle decided to look at the data and take action. Back in 2016, the city’s schools moved the middle and high school starts time back almost one full hour. The change from 7:50 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. was a massive overhaul to the district’s schedule. Everything from bus schedules to after-school activities had to shift to meet the new start times.
But did this massive change to a school’s operating system actually help teenagers get more sleep? And, if so, what effect did it really have?
The Positive Effects Of Later Start Times
Scientists at the University of Washington studied the students affected by the time change both before and after the schools shifted to a later start. The results were a major boost to the current sleep research. According to the findings, released in Science Advances, students with later start times got 34 additional minutes of sleep (an increase from 6 hours, 50 minutes to 7 hours, 24 minutes).
In addition to the extra sleep, the study results showed a 4.5 percent increase in academic performance, as well as improvement in attendance following the later school start. While researchers caution they couldn’t confirm a cause and effect relationship between the scholastic improvement and the later time, they observed that “it is certainly reasonable that students who are better rested and more alert should display better academic performance.”
The researchers from the University of Washington also suggested that more research is necessary in order to better understand the effects of sleep deprivation in teenagers.
“Increasing daily sleep duration in adolescents is not only critical because of the clear adverse physical and mental health outcomes associated with chronic sleep deprivation but also because of the role that normal sleep plays in learning and memory consolidation,” the researchers concluded.