Starting school before 8.30am increases students’ risk of suffering depression and anxiety, new research suggests.
Early start times are thought to put pressure on children to get plenty of shut eye, which hinders their ability to sleep and puts them at greater risk of mental health conditions, the researchers believe.
Lead author Dr Jack Peltz from the University of Rochester Medical Center, said: ‘Earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens.
‘Better sleep hygiene combined with later school start times would yield better outcomes.’
The researchers recommend students maintain a consistent bedtime routine that aims for between eight and 10 hours of shut eye a night, while minimizing their technology use before attempting to nod off.
How the research was carried out
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center analyzed 197 students aged between 14 and 17.
The study’s participants and their parents completed a questionnaire that asked questions regarding the students’ sleep habits, school start times and whether they are a ‘morning or evening person’.
The participants were then divided into groups depending on whether they start school before or after 8.30am.
Over seven days, the students kept a diary where they recorded their sleep habits, quality and duration, as well as any symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Starting school after 8.30am reduces depression
Results reveal starting school after 8.30am reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The researchers believe students that start school early may feel more pressure to get good quality sleep, hindering their amount of shut eye.
Early start times may also impact children’s nutrition or activity levels, which could influence their sleep, they add.
Dr Peltz said: ‘Earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens.
‘Maintaining a consistent bedtime, getting between eight and 10 hours of sleep, limiting caffeine, turning off the TV, cell phone and video games before bed; these efforts will all benefit their quality of sleep and mental health.
‘However, the fact that school start times showed a moderating effect on mental health symptoms, suggests that better sleep hygiene combined with later school start times would yield better outcomes.’
The findings were published in the journal Sleep Health.