Starting School Later Allows Students to Stay Alert & Out of Trouble, Study Says


The frantic dash to get up, out the door, and arrive at school on time is an all too common early morning routine for students and parents throughout the country. According to a new study released this week, starting school too early may also negatively impact students in more ways than being tired or tardy.

For years, students, parents, medical professionals, and social scientists have raised questions about having early start times, especially in high schools. Biologically, teenagers' bodies have a slowed release of the sleep hormone melatonin, making them prone to be late to bed and late to rise. Frequent use of digital devices with screens that emanate stimulating blue light can further delay the release of melatonin and onset of sleep.

Although the movement to start high schools later has lurched and labored for nearly 20 years, districts and schools across the nation have begun implementing a later start time – mainly in response to new research regarding adolescents and their need for sleep.

Benefits of a Later Start Time

New studies have found a number of benefits to starting high schools later, both for students and for communities. One study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this past Wednesday found that later start times allowed students to improve across many areas, including:

  • Mental Health
  • Car Crash Rates
  • Attendance
  • Standardized Test Scores
  • Grades

The study also noted that students who sleep well learn better and are less likely to act impulsively or make risky decisions. Students who sleep less more commonly report symptoms of depression and greater use of caffeine, alcohol, and drugs.

Keeping Students Out of Trouble

The study suggests that later start times help keep students alert and attentive, which in turn keeps them in school and out of trouble. Additionally, students who stay in school and receive good grades are much less likely to find themselves in the criminal justice system – a statistic that has been proven time and time again. Although educators have experimented with various programs and approaches to keeping students in school and out of trouble, few have tried implementing later start times.

While there are concerns about the drawbacks later start times can create – including time conflicts with sports, student jobs, and family life – these new studies are shedding light on ways that we can improve the lives of our children and our communities. If starting school a little later is all that needs to be done to reap such benefits, even schools with limited resources can enact this policy change.

Koffel Brininger Nesbitt has earned a reputation for our work with high school and college students who are facing criminal charges as juveniles or adults. If you or your child has been charged with a crime, call (614) 675-4845.