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When School Starts Later, Students Do Better, Study Says

Teens who started school later got more sleep and improved their grades.

A new study suggests why starting school later in the morning can help teens do better in class.

It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s January, 6am.

Few adults pop out of bed this time of year. For teens, however, there has long been an argument that early-morning education is a disservice to their growing brains.

Now, a study provides some scientific heft to the argument.

Two years ago Seattle School District delayed the start of the school day by nearly an hour, to 8:45am. Students’ slept 34 minutes more, attendance improved and grades went up 4.5 percent, according to the study published in Science Advances last month.

“Adolescents typically have a preference to stay active until late in the evening and to wake up late in the morning,” said researchers, to which every parent would respond, “Duh.”

They point out, however, that this is not just because they are on their phones all night; their biological clocks push them to stay up late and not wake early.

Those 8am first periods work against this instinct and the lack of sleep makes them more than grumpy.

“Increasing daily sleep duration in adolescents is not only critical because of the clear adverse physical and mental health outcomes associated with chronic sleep deprivation but also because of the role that normal sleep plays in learning and memory consolidation,” the authors note.

While they acknowledge they can’t draw a direct line between the later school day and the grade improvements, “it is certainly reasonable that students who are better rested and more alert should display better academic performance.”

We believe them and not just because they headlined their article “Sleepmore in Seattle.”


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