New Colorado research shows pushing back school start times increases sleep for families, teachers
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Families could always use a little more sleep before heading to school.
11 News spoke with pediatric sleep psychologist and researcher at National Jewish Health Dr. Lisa Meltzer, who evaluated new school start times implemented at the Cherry Creek School District near Denver. High school start times were moved from 7:10 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. and middle school start times were moved from 8 a.m. to 8:50 a.m.
“By delaying both middle school and high school start times, what we found is that the students were sleeping later which meant they were sleeping longer. Their bedtimes did not significantly change, but their wake times did,” said Meltzer.
Researchers learned that with delayed start times, high-schoolers got on average an extra 45 minutes of sleep a day, or 4.5 hours per week, while middle-schoolers got on average an extra 30 minutes of sleep a day, or 2.5 hours per week.
“It’s very important. Not just for sleep, but also for engagement, for the ability for students to be alert, especially in the morning. Parents reported significant changes in their teenagers, in particular their mood. They are described as no longer being zombies in the morning. The students described the benefits of being able to go to school when the sun was up and not when it was dark out,” said Meltzer.
To allow for the bus system to accommodate all students with the new, delayed start times, elementary schools actually pushed back their start time from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m. Researchers found elementary students lost about 10 minutes of sleep a day, however there were no significant changes reported in daytime functioning.
“There’s no negative impacts on the elementary school students. And in fact, the percent of students who were obtaining sufficient sleep in elementary school remained the same, whereas the percentage of students and middle and high school who were obtaining sufficient sleep doubled,” said Meltzer.
Researchers found that parents and teachers of middle and high-schoolers also increased their sleep with the delayed start times.
“Not getting enough sleep impacts every aspect of your health and well-being. So, your physical well-being, your mental health, your social interactions. When we don’t get enough sleep we know it impacts our heart. We know it impacts our weight gain. For students, it impacts their ability pay attention and to learn which is their number one job,” said Meltzer.
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