Later Start Times Are A Good Idea For Teen Sleep – But It’s Not The Only Good Idea

We are involved in a discussion about a later school start time for high school in Burlington as we look at a possible change for the start time at BHS in the fall of 2018.  I first wrote about the positive research on school start time in a post back in 2010 and referenced research from Minnesota from the late 1990’s which referenced a change in the start time at Edina High School.  The folks in Edina, at the urging of the Minnesota Medical Association, moved their start time from 7:30-8:30.

The result of this change led to the following (source University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement):

  • Students in Edina reported statistically significant less depression compared with two similar districts.
  • School counselors and nurses reported fewer students seeking help for emotional problems and somatic physical complaints.
  • 92% of parents in Edina said their teenagers were “easier to live with”
Over the last 20-plus years, there have been a number of additional studies noting the positive impact that later school start times can have for teenagers.  A number of these can be found here at

While a later school start times is one accommodation that schools have made to support the health of their students, there are additional ways we can support our students in getting a full night’s sleep. One of the other big issues for our students according to recent studies is the impact of extended exposure to blue light from electronic devices, especially exposure right before bed.  The video below explains this phenomenon.

My issues on the topic of teen sleep are with those that want to throw out the research due to their perception that we are coddling students or that the blue light issue alone is the main culprit.  We should continue to look at all of the research available to us and modify our practice based on this information. Maybe decreasing exposure to blue light and changing the school start time would be helpful? While we are at it, we should discuss the influence of sugary treats and caffeine-infused drinks on teen sleep patterns. There are a number of things we can do to support the physical and emotional health of our students. Why can’t our solution be All of the Above?

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