To establish whether sleep, health, mood, behavior, and academics improved after a 45-minute delay in high school start time, and whether changes persisted longitudinally.
We collected data from school records and student self-report across a number of domains at baseline (May 2012) and at two follow-up time points (November 2012 and May 2013), at a public high school in upstate New York. Students enrolled during academic years (AY) 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index; the DASS-21; the “Owl-Lark” Scale; the Daytime Sleepiness Index; and a brief self-report of health. Reports from school records regarding attendance, tardiness, disciplinary violations, and academic performance were collected for AY 2010–2011 through 2013–2014.
Students delayed but did not extend their sleep period; we found lasting improvements in tardiness and disciplinary violations after the start-time delay, but no changes to other variables. At the first follow-up, students reported 20 minutes longer sleep, driven by later rise times and stable bed times. At the second follow-up, students maintained later rise times but delayed bedtimes, returning total sleep to baseline levels. A delay in rise time, paralleling the delay in the start time that occurred, resulted in less tardiness and decreased disciplinary incidents, but larger improvements to sleep patterns may be necessary to affect health, attendance, sleepiness, and academic performance.
Later start times improved tardiness and disciplinary issues at this school district. A delay in start time may be a necessary but not sufficient means to increase sleep time and may depend on preexisting individual differences.
A commentary on this article appears in this issue on page 267.
Thacher PV, Onyper SV. Longitudinal outcomes of start time delay on sleep, behavior, and achievement in high school. SLEEP 2016;39(2):271–281.