Sleep deprivation is epidemic among adolescents, with potentially serious impacts on mental and physical health, safety and learning.
A new research study led by Julie Boergers, Ph.D., a psychologist and sleep expert from the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Centre, found a link between later school start times and improved sleep and mood in teens. The research appears in the current issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioural Paediatrics.
"Early high school start times contribute to this problem," said Boergers. "Most teenagers undergo a biological shift to a later sleep-wake cycle, which can make early school start times particularly challenging. In this study, we looked at whether a relatively modest, temporary delay in school start time would change students' sleep patterns, sleepiness, mood and caffeine use."
Boergers' team found a delay in school start time was associated with a significant (29 minute) increase in sleep duration on school nights, with the percentage of students receiving eight or more hours of sleep on a school night jumping from 18% to 44%.
Daytime sleepiness, depressed mood and caffeine use were all significantly reduced after the delay in school start time. The later school start time had no effect on the number of hours students spent doing homework, playing sports or engaging in extracurricular activities.
The research found that younger students and those sleeping less at the start of the study were most likely to benefit from the schedule change. And once the earlier start time was reinstituted during the spring term, teens reverted back to their original sleep levels.