School start times vary between elementary, middle and high school times making it difficult to establish and maintain a consistent schedule for K-12. However, sleep needs change as children develop and it's important that school start times reflect this change. What also needs to be considered when decided school start times is how they impact parents. Continue reading to see what optimal start times are for different age groups and how they impact everyone's sleep.
School Start Time and Elementary Students
Elementary school kids need 9-12 hours of sleep per 24 hours. They are going through a lot of growth and need the hours to refresh their bodies after a long day of learning and using a lot of energy. Research showed that changing school start times to a later time had no effect on them. Therefore, earlier start times still work for elementary school kids as long as they get in the bed early enough to get the recommended number of hours of sleep.
School Start Time and Middle School Students
Teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep. However, at this age, sleep hormones start to change and students go to bed later and need to sleep in later. However, early school start times normally leads to children being unable to get the amount of sleep that they need. They're unable to go to bed as early as they did when they were in elementary school, yet they have to get up just as early, if not earlier, when they're in middle school.
Inadequate sleep at this age can lead to poor academic performance, moodiness, and increase the risk for developing mental health disorders at an age where mental health is so important. By moving school start times later, middle school students were able to get more sleep during the week, require less make-up sleep on the weekends and have less daytime sleepiness.
School Start Time and High School Students
High school students are in the same boat. They are also transitioning from needing as many hours of sleep, but their clocks make it harder for them to go to sleep earlier. Therefore, it's important that they are able to sleep in later to get the required amount of sleep (8-10 hours of sleep). By pushing back their school start times a little over an hour, high school students had similar results as medical students. They got more sleep during the week and required less make-up sleep on the weekends. They also had a drop in daytime sleepiness.
Increasing the amount of time they're asleep can also help with regulating their moods, increasing their energy for learning, and helping to reduce the risk for mental health disorders.
School Start Time and Parents
School start times are important for students, but parents also benefit from later start times. They allow parents to catch up on some much needed sleep when parents can sleep in a little later and get their kids to school a little later. Parents require 7-8 hours of sleep. In a survey, only 64-74% of adults were obtaining sufficient sleep, but after the shift in school times, 82% of parents reported getting adequate hours of sleep.
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 am so that families can sleep more and improve the education experience across the board.
For those continuing to have sleep problems, please click the free online sleep test below in order to talk with a professional and ensure that there is not another reason that you're unable to sleep.