Later school start can have benefits for whole family, research suggests

Author: Team
A teacher talking with students in a Southwest Florida school. Credit: WINK News

It’s not easy getting teenagers up and out the door in the morning for school. That’s why many experts have been advocating for years for later school start times. Now research suggests starting the day later can have big benefits for the whole family, including mom and dad.

High school teacher Kelly Osuna and her two teen sons have busy mornings getting ready for the day. But they say it’s been much less stressful since their school began starting classes later.

“Prior to the time change, I had to get them into before care and then have enough time to get back to my job by 7:00. So, we were leaving the house at the very latest by 6:15,” Osuna says.

Health experts say early school start times can impact teens learning and increase risks for obesity and depression. Research from National Jewish Health looks at how moving start times later can be good for the whole family.

Researchers partnered with a large district near Denver, Colorado, adjusting middle and high school start times 50 to 70 minutes later.

“What we found was that these parents were reporting later wake times similar to their students and an increase in the amount of sleep that they were obtaining,” says Dr. Lisa Meltzer, a professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health.

Dr. Meltzer authored the study which also found fewer parents reported feeling tired during the day.

Researchers say many middle and high schools begin too early. Only about 20% of U.S. high schools start at or after 8:30 a.m. That’s the time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Sleep is important for every aspect of functioning,” Dr. Meltzer says.

Osuna is grateful to be getting more sleep. She now gets up at the time she used to leave the house. “I notice such a huge difference just in my mood and my affects, and when I do get in front of students in the morning, or even the time that I’m with my children in the morning,” Osuna says.

And as an educator and a mom, she says it’s a great way to start the day.

As part of the study, elementary schools started an hour earlier to accommodate the time changes for the middle and high schools.

Researchers found parents of the elementary students maintained their sleep habits, moving bedtimes and wake-up times slightly earlier.

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