Study objectives: To investigate parental knowledge about adolescent sleep needs, and other beliefs that may inform their support for or objection to later school start times.
Methods: In 2014, we conducted a cross-sectional, Internet-based survey of a nationally representative sample of parents as part of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. Parents with teens aged 13-17 years reported their children's sleep patterns and school schedules, and whether the parents supported later school start times (8:30 am or later). Responses associated with parental support of later school start times were examined with logistic regression analysis.
Results: Overall, 88% of parents reported school start times before 8:30 am, and served as the analysis sample (n = 554). In this group, 51% expressed support for later school start times. Support was associated with current school start times before 7:30 am (odds ratio [OR] = 3.1 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2, 8.4]); parental opinion that their teen's current school start time was "too early" (OR = 3.8 [1.8, 7.8]); and agreement with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations about school start times (OR = 4.7 [2.2, 10.1]). Support also was associated with anticipation of improved school performance (OR = 3.0 [1.5, 5.9]) or increased sleep duration (OR = 4.0 [1.8, 8.9]) with later school start times. Conversely, parents who anticipated too little time for after-school activities (OR = 0.5 [0.3, 0.9]) and need for different transportation plans (OR = 0.5 [0.2, 0.9]) were often less supportive.
Conclusions: Parental education about healthy sleep needs and anticipated health benefits may increase their support for later school start times. Educational efforts should also publicize the positive experiences of communities that have made this transition, with regard to limited adverse effect on after-school activity schedules and transportation.
Keywords: adolescents; circadian rhythms; high school; insufficient sleep; parental opinion; poll; school start times; sleep deprivation; survey.
© 2017 American Academy of Sleep Medicine