If we let teens sleep in a little bit longer, it would save the U.S. billions
File this under “things we tried to explain to our parents thousands of times in high school.” A new study has just come out that could change the way schools — and teens — operate forever. The study proves the economic benefits of letting teens sleep in, which is something we can all get behind.
RAND, a policy research institution, recently published a report suggesting that a later school start time for teenagers would create an economic gain of $8.6 billion for the U.S. economy within just two years. Even just 30 minutes would make a huge economic impact.
But savings aside, high schoolers simply aren’t getting enough sleep.
And when your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it wreaks havoc on your ability to perform well — in this case, at school. RAND also found extensive data suggesting that students’ performances would improve with a later school start time.
High school students have different natural sleep patterns than adults.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents tend to sleep at later times. So it’s only natural when they’re unable to catch some Zs before 11 p.m. That explains why every time you tried to fall asleep as a teen, your body just wanted to do this:
Early school starting times force high schoolers to wake up earlier than their bodies are naturally inclined.
The National Sleep Foundation reports: “Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” If 75% of teens are falling asleep later than 11 p.m., they’re likely not getting 8 1/2 hours before school starts, since most public high schools start at 8 a.m.
Sleep deprivation causes memory loss, brain fog, and sick days.
So it makes total sense that simply starting high school later would allow for better performance. And, as RAND suggests, greater economic growth. The report does note that enforcing later school times would create the need to reconfigure bus routes, but overall, the study claims it’s worthwhile.
In addition to improved academic performance, RAND found that a later school start would also reduce car crash rates and improve public health, too, since high schoolers would be generally healthier with more Zs.
There is always the classic “fake sick” still, though.
After considering the big picture of sleep deprivation among high schoolers, it seems more clear that later start times shouldn’t be something they have to beg for.
RAND’s report illuminates many compelling economic arguments — like that over 15 years of a later school start, the economy would gain $9.3 billion each year. But simply considering the fact that teenagers would benefit themselves should probably be reason enough to delay high school start times.
If adolescents don’t naturally fall asleep before 11 p.m., and they need at least 8 1/2 hours of sleep, then high schools should start at 8:30 a.m. or later. Whether the RAND report or good old fashioned begging works better, we hope that this change is made soon.