Wake Up Calls: Shocking Facts about High School Students’ Sleep Habits



  • The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2011 showed that 69% of U.S. high school students get fewer than 8 hours of sleep on school nights, and 40% get 6 or fewer hours. Results from the 2013 survey were virtually identical.A large majority of American high school students did not meet the CDC’s recommendation for 9-10 hours of sleep per night according to a study of 4 nationally representative successive samples of American high school students from 2007-2013
  • A National Sleep Foundation poll found 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of U.S. high school students were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights
  • Most adolescents (ages 12-25) need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per night
  • Girls are less likely to report getting > 7 hours of sleep per night than boys, as are racial/ethnic minorities, urban students, and those of low socioeconomic status (SES). However, minority or low SES teens and families are also more likely to believe they are getting adequate sleep. (Pediatrics, Feb. 16, 2015)
  • Shifts in the sleep-wake cycle at puberty mean that most adolescents get their best sleep between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to allow students to get healthy sleep
  • About 10% of U.S. high schools start the school day before 7:30 a.m., 42.5% before 8 a.m., and only 14.4% at 8:30 a.m. or later
  • The average public high school in the U.S. starts at 7:59 a.m.
  • The average American high school starts class at 7:59 a.m.
  • Over 20% of U.S. middle schools start the school day at 7:45 a.m. or earlier. (American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • 20-30% of high school students and 6% of middle school students fall asleep in school each day
  • Insufficient sleep in teens is associated with obesity, migraines, and immune system disruption and with health risk behaviors including smoking, drinking, stimulant abuse, physical fighting, physical inactivity, depression, and suicidal tendencies
  • Sleep-deprived teens participate in more violent and property crime than other teens
  • When schools have delayed the start of the school day, communities have seen reduced tardiness, sleeping in class, and car crash rates, as well as improved attendance, graduation rates, and standardized test scores
  • A major, multi-state study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked later high school start times to significant decreases in teen substance abuse, depression, and consumption of caffeinated drinks.
  • When Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming shifted its start time to 8:55 a.m., the number of car crashes involving teenage drivers dropped by 70%
  • Switching middle school start times by 30 minutes or more to after 8 a.m. in Wake County, NC was associated with increased math and reading test scores, with disadvantaged students benefiting most
  • A study at the US Air Force Academy showed first-year students starting classes after 8 a.m. performed better not only in their first classes but throughout the day
  • A report published by The Brookings Institution associated a significant increase in test scores with later middle and high school start times, with benefits roughly twice as great in disadvantaged students
  • The Brookings report also estimated that later high school start times create a lifetime earnings gain of $17,500 per student with a school system cost of $0.00 to $1,950 per student, a benefit-to-cost ratio of 9:1 or better