Any parent who has had to wake a teenager to get ready for school can attest to the fact that starting the school day later definitely some its benefits. While previous studies have shown that starting school later can help high school students, later school start time for middle school-aged kids hasn’t had much coverage until now.

A new study reported in the Journal of School Health shows that starting middle school classes after 8 a.m. can help kids get more sleep and stay more awake in class. “Although the evidence is growing to start schools later for teens in high school, few studies have looked at middle schools,” said lead author Deborah Temkin, director of education research for Child Trends in Bethesda, Maryland, a non-profit research organization.

The study analyzed data from 11 middle schools, tracking nearly 1,000 students. Of those schools, eight had a start time around 8 a.m., while three started by 7:23 a.m. The researchers found that the students with the later start time averaged 17 more minutes of sleep per day for a total of eight hours and 23 minutes. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens should try to get around nine hours of sleep every night.)

The students that started later were less likely to report sleepiness, to fall asleep during the day or struggle in after-school activities. This is an important finding for those looking to improve not only student’s learning but also tween and teen health, as lack of sleep has been connected to depression, substance abuse and a sedentary lifestyle, among other negative impacts.

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“This is a movement that is clearly in every state in this country and is about more than just academic performance,” Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters. “Changing start times may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for districts, but many people are realizing that it’s a protective action to help teens reduce risky behavior.”

Do you think a later start time would be better for your kids? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Pexels

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