The Cherry Creek School District in Colorado decided to change the start times of their students to see if giving older students more time to sleep would help them. Elementary school students went to school first, reorganizing the order that school buses picked up school-age kids. There was not much difference in academic performance for the elementary age group. Middle school students started between 40 and 60 minutes after their original start time, while high schools started about 70 minutes later than the original time (around 8:30am). This meant that students in middle and high school did stay up a bit later:
- On average, middle schoolers went to bed less than 10 minutes later, but slept about 37 minutes more.
- High school students stayed up about 14 minutes longer, but slept about an hour later.
This change in sleep is meant to help reduce sleep deprivation in these age groups. It is hoped that the extra sleep will help reduce “social jet lag,” which psychiatrists say is the mismatch of the forced early start times and biological shift to later schedules associated with adolescents and teenage years. This is most often seen on the weekends when teenagers adapt to their natural biological clock, staying up later and waking later, with roughly 3 hours difference between their natural and school schedules. Without adequate sleep, students won’t be able to remember what they learn as well, in addition to the lack of sleep adversely affecting their physical and mental health.