Parents Split on Later School Start Time for Teens

new article illustration

MONDAY, Feb. 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- About half of American parents support a later start to the school day for teens, a new survey shows.

The poll of parents with teens aged 13 to 17 whose schools start before 8:30 a.m. found that half favored a later school start time. Forty percent said doing so would allow their teens to get more sleep, and 22 percent believed doing so would help their teen do better at school.

However, 22 percent of the parents thought later school start times would mean there wasn't enough time for after-school activities, and 14 percent said later start times might hamper teens' ability to get to school.

Twenty-seven percent of the parents said they would support a later school start only if it didn't affect the school's budget, and 24 percent said they would support it no matter how it affected the budget, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

The survey was conducted last year after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later. Only 20 percent of the parents in the poll had heard about the new guidelines, but 71 percent agreed with the guidelines once they were aware of them.

Research suggests that later school start times benefit teens' mental and physical health, including reducing their risk of obesity and depression.

"Teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived and that can negatively impact their health and well-being," poll director Dr. Matthew Davis, a professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the child health evaluation and research unit at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a university news release.

"We know teens are biologically wired to have later sleep cycles, which has raised the question of whether school start times that align to adolescents' natural sleep rhythms could help improve health outcomes," Davis explained.

"The idea to delay school start times is still fairly new, and our poll shows that parents seem conflicted about whether or not it's the right move," added Davis, who is also professor of public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.

"While many recognize the benefits of more sleep for their kids, there are real-life concerns about how the change may interfere with after-school activities, logistics and school budgets. As more schools in the country consider this change, we recommend parents get involved with these discussions," Davis concluded.

Teens should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night, according to the AAP.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about teens and sleep.