Town Hall

Sleep Research Subcommittee Report

The sleep research subcommittee is exploring all aspects of the relevant research from professional articles, three presentations given on September 25, 2017 and a question and answer session with Susan Rubman Gold, Ph. D. on December 6, 2017. The subcommittee’s research is focused on health benefits, academic impacts, policy changes, driver safety, and impacts related to athletics.

The Regional Education Lab for the Northeast and the Islands (REL-NEI) provided two literature reviews which the committee members read through during the summer and fall of 2017. The first review asked the question:

"What is the impact of later secondary school start times on student achievement?"

The second review asked the question: "What does research reveal about later school start times for high schools?"

Research articles include, but are not limited to:

Title: “A’s From ZZZZ’s? The Causal Effect of School Start Time on the Academic Achievement of Adolescents”
Focus of the Study: United States Air Force Academy First Year Students, Colorado
Published in: American Economic Journal,3 (3): 62-91. (2010)

Title: "Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior"
Focus of the Study: An Independent Private High School with 201 students in Rhode Island
Published in: JAMA Pediatrics, 2010

Title: “School start time and adolescent sleep patterns: Results from the US national comorbidity survey-adolescent supplement”
Focus of the Study: National Study of 7308 students in 245 schools
Published in: American Journal of Public Health, 2015

Title: “Sleep duration, positive attitude toward life, and academic achievement: the role of daytime tiredness, behavioral persistence, and school start times”
Focus of the Study: 2716 students with mean age of 15.4 years in Switzerland
Published in: Journal of Adolescence, 2013

Title: “Delayed high school start times later than 8: 30am and impact on graduation rates and attendance rates”
Focus of the Study: 29 High Schools in 7 States
Published in: Sleep Health, 2017

Title: “School Start Time and Academic Achievement: A Literature Review”
Focus of the Study: Literature Review, Blue Valley School District
Published in: Report from the Blue Valley School District, Kentucky, (2006)

Title: “Later School Start Times for Supporting the Education, Health, and Well-being of High School Students”
Focus of the Study: Meta-Analysis of Research Studies
Published in: The Campbell Collaboration, 2012

Title: “Early to Rise? The Effect of Daily Start Times on Academic Performance”
Focus of the Study: Middle Schools in Wake County, North Carolina 
Published in: Economics of Education Review, Colby College, 2012

Title: “Longitudinal Outcomes of Start Time Delay on Sleep, Behavior, and Achievement in High School”
Focus of the Study: Public High Schools, Upstate New York
Published in: The Sleep Research Society, 2016

Title:“Morningness is associated with better gradings and higher attention in class”
Focus of the Study: 1977 students aged 10-17
Published in: Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 167-173 (2013)

Title: “Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study”
Focus of the Study: Eight Public High Schools in Three States: Minnesota, Wyoming, Colorado
Published in: Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, The University of Minnesota, 2014

The committee found the most persuasive evidence related to the health effects for students and the impact of policy changes. Below is a summary of the committee’s review of the research in key areas:

Health Impacts: The committee found the research articles to be consistent and compelling in their findings that the adolescent body needs additional sleep. Throughout many of the research articles and presentations, the change in adolescent circadian rhymes was clear and convincing. The research emphasized that students cannot address their sleep needs by merely trying to go to bed earlier. The evidence across many of the studies showed there is a delay in melatonin release in adolescents. The result is that teenagers cannot fall asleep at the same time they did when they were younger. The negative effect of cumulative sleep deprivation was persuasive to the committee. The time high school students sleep on non-school days averages 9 hours and 32 minutes revealing a need to sleep more. Several articles noted improvements in mood and attention in schools that had later school start times.

Academic Impacts: Some of the studies indicate that there are improved academic results when school districts delay start times. The most compelling article on this topic came from the United States Air Force study that showed that even a 30-minute change in start times is likely to have a positive impact on academics. Several of the articles were silent on the matter of improved academic benefits but reported health benefits related to mood and attention. In the study published in Sleep Health in 2017, researchers found graduation rates rose on average across from 79 to 88 percent in the 29 schools studied. This study also found that first period attendance rose.

The sleep research subcommittee believes that there may be a positive impact on the delay, but it is not likely to be a large impact given the district’s current rates. For example, the district’s four-year cohort graduation rate for the class of 2017 was nearly 97%. In terms of first period grades and attendance, the current first period Grade Point Average (GPA) of XX compares favorably with GPA for periods 2-8.

Policy Changes: Another convincing outcome of the research came from the University of Minnesota that showed that when schools move start times later, students sleep more. The subcommittee had a concern that delaying school start times will only have the effect of students going to bed later than they currently do. Dr. Susan Rubman Gold presented research that showed with school start times at 7:30, about 33 percent of students are getting the recommended minimum of 8 hours of sleep. By moving the school start time to approximately 8:00, between 42-49 percent of students are receiving the recommend hours of sleep; when school starts at 8:30 am, 57-59 percent of students sleep at least 8 hours. Unfortunately, even moving school start times to 9:00 increased the percentage to only 65 of students getting the minimum recommendations. One 2016 study from the Sleep Research Society contradicted this finding. In their first trial, students went to bed at the same time and woke later for a delayed school start time. When researchers completed their second trial, the students reported they adjusted their sleep time later that resulted in the same amount of sleep as before the delay in school start time was implemented.

Driver Safety: The committee examined research on driver safety. Compelling research was found in two studies from Virginia that compared the rate of accidents involving high school students in districts that made the decision to delay their start times to districts that did not delay start times. The research showed a lower accident rate per 1000 in the districts that moved start times later. West Hartford Police Department data for the 2016-2017 school year shows there were 78 accidents in the 7:00 to 8:00 am hour, but 139 accidents in the 8:00 to 9:00 am hour. The subcommittee is unsure if West Hartford would realize a positive outcome in the area of drive safety based on this data.

Athletic Performance: Dr. Rubman Gold shared two studies that showed that there is evidence of positive outcomes affecting athletics that result from delaying school start times. One study showed improvement in athletic performance for a university basketball team while another study showed decreases in sports related injuries that are related to fatigue.