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Many parents are familiar with the struggle to wake a sleepy child to get them ready for school. While many parents think that the kids should go to bed earlier,  researchers from Colorado now believe that they should start school later.

Importance of sleep to children

It is no secret that good sleep quality is good for everyone’s health regardless of age. For children, however, it is more important because it affects their social and academic development. Sadly, inadequate sleep is a common problem in adolescents.

Although an earlier bedtime seems like a good solution, the researchers say the problem is biological. Changes in sleep cycles are common during puberty. When you add the early school start times for teenagers, adolescents are more likely to get inadequate sleep.

The researchers surveyed 28,000 elementary, middle, and high school parents and students from the Cherry Creek School District of Colorado. They also followed the group for two years after the district changed school start times.

Participating elementary schools started their classes 1 hour later each morning, while middle schools moved their classes 40 to 60 minutes later. High schools, on the other hand, moved their classes 1 hour 10 minutes later each morning. The researchers then surveyed parents’ and students’ sleeping patterns on weekdays and weekends. They also required the participants to describe the students’ sleep quality, including possible daytime sleepiness.

The results showed that changing school times impacted high school students the most. Students got an average of 3.8 more hours of sleep each week after the change. More than 10% of the students also reported better sleep quality. Another 20% said they were less sleepy during the day.

Less oversleeping on weekends

High schoolers are also reported to be more energetic around weekends, thanks to the later start times. Weekend oversleep, which is often a result of people who’ve not had enough sleep during the week trying to catch up, fell from 2 hours on average to about 1.2 hours after revising the starting times.