The Big Q: Should School Start Times be Delayed to Let Teens Get More Sleep?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Monday called for a delay in middle and high school start times until 8:30 a.m. or later, citing chronic sleep deprivation in teens as a public health problem.

According to the AAP statement entitled “Let Them Sleep”:

“Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day.”

Citing research showing that most teens don’t get the sleep they need, the statement continues: “The AAP urges middle and high schools to aim for start times that allow students to receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. In most cases, this will mean a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later, though schools should also consider average commuting times and other local factors.”

With some exceptions, Harford County middle schools start at 8:15 a.m.; high schools begin the day at 7:30 a.m. (Elementary school begins at 9:00 a.m.)

Sleep deprived teens are likely to cheer a delay. But opponents warn that a shift to later start times (and therefore, later dismissal times) would create new problems at school and at home. They cite conflicts for students who work or play sports after school. Conflicts would also arise for parents who rely on teens to be home in time to watch younger siblings getting off the bus. Others say that putting inexperienced teen drivers on the road during the morning rush hour would also risk public health.

So, which matters more, teen sleep or maintaining the status quo?


  1. Common semse says

    Go to bed earlier.

    Falling asleep while driving is a problem, but not as much as the hundreds of people daily you see distracted driving on their phones.

  2. K says

    Yes, middle and high school should start later. Let’s look at these kids as individuals, not babysitters or game players. They are absolutely sleep deprived. Everyone should spend a day in one of our high schools and watch the students. Hell, it’s too early, especially for the high school teachers!

  3. Hmm says

    I try to make my 17 year old go to bed earlier. he refuses, yeah he’ll get in bed, but as soon as I go to sleep he’ll get back up and start calling his GF on the phone (I have blocked the internet in the house after 10PM) becasue if he gets up at 6 that’s 8 hours of sleep)

    He wont. what am I going to do? so when he gets up and is super tired its his fault. kids have been going to school early for a long time. I survived, why is this suddenly a problem? It’s a parenting problem. remove the distractions, and when they finally start realizing they are not getting enough sleep maybe then…. So should I tell my boss I am not getting enough sleep, lets change my start time from 6:30 AM to 8:30? is that the message were sending here?

  4. steadynow says

    I’ve been hearing about these studies since I was in school. As a high school student (many moons ago) I would have agreed with this! Sure, it would have been great to delay school, sleep in and be lazy – but where would that have gotten me later in life? There are still days now as an adult I want to pull the covers back over my head and snooze, but I can’t because I have a job and a responsibility to get up, get ready and be on time. I feel that as kids get older, they need to start taking accountability and responsibility for their decisions. I stress to them the importance of a good night sleep, just like I stress to them the importance of healthy eating. If they decide they want to stay up and they’re tired in the morning, well I’m sorry, but that was their decision. For the most part, especially my night owl son, they have realized this and started going to bed early on their own. It took a few mornings of feeling tired, but lesson was learned and now they’re adjusted. That said, there are two sides to my story. On the other hand, I do fear kids standing out at bus stops while it’s still dark in the morning. In those winter months, the sun still hasn’t risen and I see kids standing out at main intersections. It frightens me a bit knowing that any random stranger could stop and snatch them up. In fact, just last year it almost happened to a child. Thankfully the child could see what was going on and ran back home.

  5. mom22 says

    I don’t have a strong opinion on the argument directly related to the school times. Eary or late, there are pros and cons to each. However, I do believe some are missing the point here. Yes, we should teach and instill responsibility and a work ethic in our children. Making them function in a sleep deprived state brought on by growth, hormones, and brain function is not always as easy as telling them to ‘deal with it’. The fact of the matter is that teens require more sleep. Just as when a baby goes through a growth spurt and needs more sleep, teens are in the same situation. Teens are essentially going through one long growth spurt. Their brains are in a period of blooming and pruning (neuron connections that grow with new information and pruning of connections that are no longer used) which happens during sleep. School is very different now than in the past. I believe the teenage brain needs more time in REM sleep to complete the tasks it needs to do. I am not sure what the answer is, but I am sure that there is more to the solution than trying to make a High School student go to bed at 8:30pm to get 9 hours of sleep before they wake up at 5:30am for school.

    • Jorbis says

      The last thing we need to read are amateur, E-doctor internet opinions. Have your kids go to bed at appropriate times that they are not tired when it is time to wake up.

      It’s really common sense.

      Not sure why school is so different now, if different is an implication as more easy, than you are right.

      • mom22 says

        You do not know me, my profession, or whether or not I even have children. You may certainly have your own opinion, but attempting to discredit me personally does not make your opinion any more valid. I will not enter a debate.

        • Eat Poo says

          We know you’re probably a moron.

          Okay, so they start school’s an hour, or two later. Who say’s will kids will actually sleep longer? This is a “feel good” solution, much like everything else that is “feel good.”

          We start school at 9AM, but the kids still aren’t sleeping. Ohh noes. LOL Eat Sh!t

  6. calculon says

    This would be a scheduling nightmare and fiscal disaster. In some school districts because of the staggered start time, the elementary schools and high schools use the same drivers and buses. To have all the school start at nearly the same time would mean hiring more drivers and buy more buses, which means possibly higher taxes.

  7. Jorbis says

    The only mental health problem is the logic displayed by these “groups” who have been proposing this silly school schedule start time alternatives for decades.

    “The AAP urges middle and high schools to aim for start times that allow students to receive 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night.”

    In real life, reality, if you want 9.5 hours of sleep, you have to figure out what time of day you need to wake up, and count hours backwards and then some for bed time. Right? Common sense?

    Nanny state nonsense. Who says a kid will get 9.5 hours of sleep if you start later anyway? One way thinking.

    Yeah, kids are tired as shit in school, but there are also millions of adults who drive/go to work tired as shit as well.

  8. Factchecker says

    Let’s go with the opinion the retarded people of Harford county instead of detailed studies. You know, school should start later because it eases traffic HOW IS THAT FOR LOGIC. I think it’s pathetic that bad parents come on here to complain about their kids, sad.

    • Jorbis says

      It eases traffic, when? Morning rush hour? If they start later, that means they get out later and effect the +1500 hour rush hour? What kind of logic is that? Troll logic. Go away.

  9. Brian says

    Yes it should be delayed, but not by much. When a middle/high school student has to get on the bus at 6:22 am and ride for close to an hour to get there that is to early. Twenty years ago I did the same bus ride and got on 30 minuets later. If school started even a half an hour later that would help both the kids and the buses. There is no reason to be on a school bus at 6:30 in the morning.