COVID-19 instructional approaches (in-person, online, hybrid), school start times, and sleep in over 5,000 U.S. adolescents

Lisa J. Meltzer, Jared M. Saletin, Sarah M. Honaker, Judith A. Owens, Azizi Seixas, Kyla L. Wahlstrom, Amy R. Wolfson, Patricia Wong, Mary A. Carskadon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: To examine associations among instructional approaches, school start times, and sleep during the COVID-19 pandemic in a large, nationwide sample of U.S. adolescents. Methods: Cross-sectional, anonymous self-report survey study of a community-dwelling sample of adolescents (grades 6-12), recruited through social media outlets in October/November 2020. Participants reported on instructional approach (in-person, online/synchronous, online/asynchronous) for each weekday (past week), school start times (in-person or online/synchronous days), and bedtimes (BT) and wake times (WT) for each identified school type and weekends/no school days. Sleep opportunity was calculated as BT-to-WT interval. Night-to-night sleep variability was calculated with mean square successive differences. Results: Respondents included 5,245 racially and geographically diverse students (~50% female). BT and WT were earliest for in-person instruction; followed by online/synchronous days. Sleep opportunity was longer on individual nights students did not have scheduled instruction (>1.5 h longer for online/asynchronous than in-person). More students obtained sufficient sleep with later school start times. However, even with the same start times, more students with online/synchronous instruction obtained sufficient sleep than in-person instruction. Significantly greater night-to-night variability in sleep-wake patterns was observed for students with in-person hybrid schedules versus students with online/synchronous + asynchronous schedules. Conclusions: These findings provide important insights regarding the association between instructional approach and school start times on the timing, amount, and variability of sleep in U.S. adolescents. Given the public health consequences of short and variable sleep in adolescents, results may be useful for education and health policy decision-making for post-pandemic secondary schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberzsab180
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Sleep Research Society 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Sleep Research Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:


  • education
  • health policy
  • school start times


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