Vacaville Unified School District

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School Start Times Evaluation

Sleepy Teens: More To It Than Getting to Bed Earlier

Significant research shows that the circadian rhythm (or sleep cycle) for humans changes during the adolescent years. While young children typically are naturally wide awake early in the morning, teens biologically struggle with waking early, regardless of the time they go to sleep. Aligning school start times to better fit students' biological rhythms results in improved student performance and success.

children 5-11 years naturally wake early

teens 12-18 years naturally wake later, despite bed times

Times Changes Being Discussed

Elementary schools start times between 7:55-8:25 AM

Middle and high schools start times between 8:30-8:50 AM

The duration of the school day would not be changed. If a school start was 15 later in the day, the school day would end 15 minutes later. If school started 15 minutes earlier the school day would end 15 minutes earlier. 

Taking A Look At Sleep Needs for Students

Researchers have studied the effect of delaying start times for high school students and have found that even a modest shift in start times benefits adolescent students. Student benefits include improvements in academic achievement, reduced truancy, and fewer behavioral problems. These studies also indicate that elementary students would not be adversely affected by slightly earlier start times. Numerous national organizations support changing to later start times for adolescents. These include the National Sleep Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Since the 1970s, studies have indicated that sleep patterns change as children grow into adolescence. Research indicates that teenagers need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night, but average fewer than 7 hours. Most adolescents go through a change in sleep patterns with their natural time to fall asleep shifting to 11 p.m. or later. This biological shift in their internal clocks causes them to be alert at typical bedtimes and to have difficulty waking early in the morning. Because they are drowsy in the morning, teens have more trouble:

  • being alert in school
  • paying attention
  • solving problems
  • coping with stress
  • retaining information.

In addition, sleep deprivation has many other consequences for adolescents including increased accidents from drowsiness; emotional and behavioral problems such as irritability, depression, poor impulse control and violence; health complaints; tobacco and alcohol use; impaired cognitive function and decision-making; and lower overall performance in everything from academics to athletics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. While changing start times has many benefits for adolescent students, there are many complications to implementing the changes. Major issues include alteration of bus transportation schedules; impacts to after school activities; safety concerns with younger children starting school earlier; family stress from altering transportation, meal, and homework schedules; and costs of implementation. 

Articles and Stories About Later School Start Times

Research Around School Start Times

VUSD has done extensive research on the topic of school start times. Here are some of the research that has been considered.

News Stories

VUSD Takes a Look at Sleep Research for Students
April 21, 2016, KCRA 3 News

KCRA News story interviewing a student

VUSD Considering a Change in School Start Times
April 21, 2016, ABC 7 News

ABC 7 News story interviewing female student

video on benefits of sleep


Other Resources

How Would a Change in School Start Times Affect You?

VUSD would like to know how a change in school start times may affect the community. Tell us what you think!


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