Benefits of Later School Start Times

The Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) is working with the Michigan Academy of Sleep Medicine (MASM) to raise awareness about the benefits of later school start times and support legislative efforts for middle schools and high schools to start later.

It is widely known that sleep deprivation is very common in adults and children. It is recommended that adolescents get 8-10 hours of sleep a night, however, most get far less sleep than this. There is significant evidence that insufficient sleep in adolescents can lead to poor academic performance and tardiness; poor mental health including depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation; sleepiness; a myriad of physical health issues including risk of obesity; as well as, public health consequences such as drowsy driving and increased vehicular crash rates.

Due to changes in the circadian system, most adolescents develop an evening-type phase preference, and they experience a physiologically delayed sleep phase of about two hours compared to their prior schedule. In addition, due to changes in the homeostatic process, they accumulate sleep pressure at a slower rate, and therefore are not as sleepy after being awake for most of the day. Both changes lead to most adolescents struggling to fall asleep before 11 p.m.

If an adolescent goes to bed around 11 p.m., they will need to sleep until 7:30 a.m. to get sufficient sleep and to wake up during a circadian-appropriate time. Several national and states societies, including the American Medical Association, have put out statements to start middle and high school classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Several school districts throughout the United States have adopted later school start times. Studies show these changes lead to increased sleep duration for older students with minimal negative impact on younger elementary students who were changed to earlier school start times. Later school start times lead to decreased rates of vehicle crashes, improved mood and lower rate of suicide, reduced headaches and dozing off in classes without negatively impacting student involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities.

Legislation requiring high schools to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle schools no earlier than 8:00 a.m. was passed in 2019 in California and in 2023 in Florida. Multiple other states have passed or have pending legislation to either study, encourage, or mandate later start times.

MASM brought this issue to the 2022 MSMS House of Delegates, where a resolution establishing MSMS policy in support of later school start times was adopted. If you are interested in learning more about this issue and ongoing efforts throughout the United States, please visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. You can also check out a local Start School Later chapter to become involved in your district.

MSMS Policy

MSMS encourages the Michigan Department of Education to educate school districts, caregivers, and students on the harms of insufficient sleep and the benefits of later school starts. MSMS supports legislative efforts to adopt middle school and high school start times that have been proven to provide students with the best opportunity to obtain the physiologically required amount of sleep; thereby, resulting in scholastic, psychological, and health benefits. (Res20-22)