Impact of changing school start times on parent sleep

To examine the impact of changing school start times on sleep in parents of students in elementary, middle, and high school.

Annual surveys were completed by parents of K-12 students (n = 8190-10,592 per year) before (pre-change) and for 2 years (post-change, follow-up) after implementation of new school start times (elementary school [ES]: 60 minutes earlier, middle school [MS]: 40-60 minutes later, high school [HS]: 70 minutes later), providing parent self-reported weekday bedtime and wake time, sleep quality, and feeling tired.

Significant level-by-year interactions were found for parent bedtime, wake time, and sleep duration (all p < .0001). Post hoc analyses show ES parents reporting earlier bedtimes and wake times at post-change, with no change in sleep duration, while MS and HS parents reported later post-change wake times. Post-change, more MS and HS parents reported sufficient sleep duration (p < .0001) and good sleep quality (p < .0001), with fewer HS parents reporting feeling tired (p < .0001).

This is the first study to consider the impact of a policy change aimed at improving child sleep on parent sleep. Healthy school start times has a significantly positive downstream effect on secondary school parents’ sleep and daytime functioning, with minimal impact reported by parents of elementary school students.