Skip to navigation menu Skip to content
Please click here to read our COVID-19 policies and resources before your visit or appointment. X
Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

Later School Start Times Boost Parents' Health, Too

Later School Start Times Boost Parents' Health, Too

TUESDAY, Jan. 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- For several years, a leading U.S. pediatricians' group has called for middle and high schools to start later in the morning, to help these young people get the right amount of sleep.

Now, new research suggests that students aren't the only ones who benefit from later start times: Their parents also catch a break.

"Kids don't live in a vacuum. They live in a complex family system. In particular, in the morning, most parents will recognize that they are at some level involved with helping their children wake up," said study author Lisa Meltzer. She is a professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver.

"So, if students have to wake up early, parents have to wake up early. By adjusting the school start times that then impacts when parents have to wake up in order to help their students get up and ready for school in the morning," Meltzer said.

To learn more about how school schedules impact parents, the research team partnered with Cherry Creek Schools, a large district in the Denver area.

Cherry Creek Schools adapted its start times, starting middle and high schools about 50 to 70 minutes later in the morning. Elementary students, who don't experience the same negative impacts from earlier start times according to experts, went to school an hour earlier than they previously had.

The parents of kindergarteners through 12th graders completed annual surveys prior to the change and for two years after the schedules changed. The parents reported their bedtime and wake times, sleep quality and whether they felt tired.

The study found that when their older kids needed to get out of bed a little later, parents also slept longer. Even though it was a small amount per night, about 20 minutes, that added up to an extra 60 hours for each parent over the course of the school year, Meltzer said. The researchers also found that more parents were getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Parents of elementary students maintained their normal sleep habits, moving bed and wake times slightly earlier, the findings showed.

The researchers still saw benefits for parents who have kids in both age groups because the elementary schools' new start time was still not as early as the high school students had previously started.

"We know that sleep is tied to every aspect of health and well-being," Meltzer said. "We know it's tied to physical health — getting sufficient sleep is related to better health outcomes, including healthy weight, cardiovascular health," she added.

"We know it's related to performance, attention, drowsy driving. We know that it's related to mental health. People who get more sleep have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and [better] overall family functioning," Meltzer continued. "So, getting enough sleep is important as we've known for many years for kids, but also for adults. And so by improving parents' sleep, it helps improve the entire family functioning."

The study referenced the American Academy of Pediatrics' 2014 recommendation that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., so that adolescents could get more sleep each night.

The researchers concluded that the changed school start times have "a significantly positive downstream effect on secondary school parents' sleep and daytime functioning, with minimal impact reported by parents of elementary school students."

The findings were published online recently in the journal Sleep Health.

Later wake times not only provide a lot of physical and mental health benefits, but created less conflict in parent-child interactions, said Dr. Cora Collette Breuner. She is a professor of pediatrics/adolescent medicine and attending physician at Seattle Children's Hospital.

"The parents are getting more sleep because they're not having to get their kids up," said Breuner, who was not involved with the study.

As kids become adolescents, their circadian rhythm shifts, she noted. They're no longer as tired earlier in the late evening, but they still need an adequate amount of sleep. Students with earlier start times also tend to be less likely to eat breakfast while rushing out the door, she added.

One area of community concerns around high school kids starting and getting out of school later than their younger siblings is they can't be home in time to babysit. Breuner said she has pushed back against that idea.

"It's not normative for a 15-year-old to be taking care of their younger siblings. The schools are supposed to be providing after-school care for kids whose parents work, and support the parents and have after-school teachers that know what they're doing, help the kids with their homework and [get] physical exercise and feed them," Breuner said.

The shift to changing start times is challenging for communities, Meltzer acknowledged. Cherry Creek Schools did a lot of community engagement before implementing the new schedules. Some schools also offered before-school care to help parents who couldn't move their work schedules. Extracurricular activities were adapted to work with the new dismissal times.

"A number of changes had to happen, and change is hard and change is scary, but the benefits of increasing sleep for both students and their parents are really important," Meltzer said.

More information

Michigan Medicine has more on teenage sleep patterns.

SOURCES: Lisa Meltzer, PhD, pediatric psychologist and professor, pediatrics, National Jewish Health Center, Denver; Cora Breuner, MD, MPH, professor, pediatrics/adolescent medicine, and adjunct professor, orthopedics and sports medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, and attending physician, Seattle Children's Hospital; Sleep Health, Oct. 8, 2021, online

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Childrens Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Dr. James Bennett
Dr. J. Marc Cardelia
Dr. Peter Moskal
Dr. Cara Novick
Dr. Stephanie Pearce
Dr. Carl St. Remy
Sports Medicine
Dr. Joel Brenner
Dr. Aisha Joyce
Dr. Micah Lamb
Dr. David Smith
Dr. Sarah Chagnon
Dr. Wendy Edlund
Dr. Ralph Northam
Dr. Crystal Proud
Dr. Svinder Toor
Dr. Ryan Williams
Sleep Medicine
Dr. Michael Strunc
Health Tips
Abuse of Prescription ADHD Medicines Rising on College Campuses
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
Parenting Déjà vu: Raising Your Grandchildren
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Sports and Music: Both Good for Kids
Talking About Sex with Your Teen
Talking With Your Kids About Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco
When Can a Child Wear Contact Lenses
Sleep: Test Your Knowledge
Teen Health Quiz
Are You a Tired Mom? 4 Tips to Sleep Better
Diseases & Conditions
Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
Amenorrhea in Teens
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma in Children Index
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Breast Conditions in Young Women
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Female Growth and Development
Gynecological and Menstrual Conditions
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Children
High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Home Page - Adolescent Medicine
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Major Depression in Teens
Meningitis in Children
Menstrual Cramps (Dysmenorrhea) in Teens
Menstrual Disorders
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Oral Health
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Pap Test for Adolescents
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Teens and Diabetes Mellitus
Television and Children
The Growing Child- Teenager (13 to 18 Years)
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Heart
The Kidneys
Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn
Your Child's Asthma
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.