Research shows that teens are among the least likely to get enough sleep on a regular basis. Given that sleep deprivation causes problems with memory, attention, and analytical reasoning, it’s no surprise that it’s a recipe for poor learning outcomes. Moreover, if teens weren’t moody enough, not getting enough sleep hampers a person’s ability to regulate their emotions in the short term, and can predispose them to mood disorders in the long term. And since most teens need about nine hours of sleep a night for optimal health, it makes sense at first glance that delaying school start times would improve their health and their learning outcomes.
The research bears out this hypothesis, with some experts recommending a delay in school start times as a way to improve not only the academic performance but the overall well-being of adolescents. One meta-review of 38 studies that examine the relationship between school start times and academic outcomes found that later school start times caused an increase in sleep duration, and corresponding better attendance, better grades, and even fewer car accidents on the way to and from school.
Importantly, it seems that even a slight delay in school start times significantly increases the chance that students will get enough sleep—that is, a 20-minute delay can result in more than just 20 additional minutes of sleep. This effect seems to hold true cross-culturally—even in East Asian cultures Melbourne's Templestowe College, which will give students the option to start (and finish) school at a later time.
As experts in the sleep retail industry, we see the positive effect that sufficient sleep has on our clients every single day. We hope that more Australian schools follow suit and make policy changes according to this research. In doing so, if the research holds true, they will bring us closer to solving our national epidemic of sleep deprivation.