Later school start times improve students’ sleep, according to study involving Cherry Creek

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A bus pulls into the parking lot before sunrise on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 at Smoky Hill High School. The district has since started a program of delaying school day start time for high school and middle school students, which district officials say have improved student performance. 
File Photo by McKenzie Lange/Aurora Sentinel

DENVER | Middle and high school students sleep better and report being less tired at school when school starts an hour later than usual, according to a study National Jewish Health published this month in the journal Sleep.

The Denver hospital conducted a study of the Cherry Creek School District’s 2017 schedule shift delaying high school start time by 70 minutes and middle school by 40 to 60 minutes. About 28,000 of the district’s students and their parents filled out a survey six months before the change to 18 months after documenting how the change affected them.

According to a press release from National Jewish Health, after the shift high school students slept 45 minutes longer per night, and 21% fewer students reported feeling daytime sleepiness.

Middle school students slept an average of 29 minutes longer per night and 12% fewer students reported feeling daytime sleepiness.

Conversely, elementary students who then started an hour earlier to accommodate the new demand for buses did not experience a significant loss of sleep. On average elementary students lost only 11 minutes of sleep a night, and 98% still reported getting at least nine hours of sleep.

“Early school start times are one of the main reasons adolescents are chronically sleep deprived,” lead study author Dr. Lisa Meltzer said in the release.

“Early school start times are one of the main reasons adolescents are chronically sleep deprived,” lead study author Dr. Lisa Meltzer said in the release.

“Starting middle and high schools at 8:30 a.m. or later is a critical health policy that can quickly and effectively reduce adolescent sleep deprivation with minimal impact on younger students,” she said.

District superintendent Scott Siegfried said in the release that the shift was a “game changer” for high school students.

“That extra sleep makes a real difference in terms of health and wellness, which in turn supports deeper learning,” he said.

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