Changing school start times: Impact on sleep in primary and secondary school students

Lisa J. Meltzer, Kyla L. Wahlstrom, Amy E. Plog, Matthew J. Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: To examine the impact of changing school start times on sleep for primary (elementary school: ES) and secondary (middle and high school: MS/HS) students. Methods: Students (grades 3-12) and parents (grades K-12) were surveyed annually, before and for 2 years after school start time changes (ES: 60 min earlier, MS: 40-60 min later; HS: 70 min later). Student sleep and daytime sleepiness were measured with school-administered student surveys and parent-proxy online surveys. Results: Approximately 28,000 students annually completed surveys (~55% White, ~21% free/reduced lunch [FRL]). One-year post-change, weekday bedtimes and wake times were slightly earlier for ES students, with an 11-min decrease in sleep duration. MS and HS students reported slightly later weekday bedtimes, significantly later wake times, and significantly longer sleep duration (MS: 29 min; HS: 45 min). The percent of ES students reporting sufficient sleep duration, poor sleep quality, or daytime sleepiness did not change, but the percent of MS and HS students reporting sufficient sleep duration significantly increased and clinically significant daytime sleepiness decreased. All results were maintained at the 2-year follow-up. Benefits of later start times were similar across racial and free/reduced lunch groups. Conclusions: This is the first large scale, longitudinal, and representative study to concurrently examine the impact of changing school start times across students in primary/secondary school. Findings suggest a minimal impact of earlier start times on ES students' sleep or daytime sleepiness, while further supporting the significant benefits of delaying MS and HS start times on student sleep and daytime sleepiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 9 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Sleep Research Society. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Sleep Research Society.


  • adolescent
  • elementary
  • health policy
  • longitudinal
  • school start times
  • sleep


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