The number of hours children need to sleep depends on their age. According to the National Sleep Foundation1, children ages 6–13 need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep at night. Teenagers (ages 14–17) need 8–10 hours each night. However, studies have demonstrated that most American adolescents are not getting enough sleep2. Nearly 60% of middle schoolers do not get enough sleep on school nights. For high schoolers, that number is over 70%.
Late bedtimes and early school start times are a contributing factor to a lack of adolescent sleep. A lack of sleep impacts overall student health, wellbeing, and academic success, and it can even have long-term health consequences.
What Are Common School Start Times?
In the United States, the average high school start time is 8:00 a.m. This time varies, though, depending on the state. Except for eight outlying states, each state’s average start time is between 7:45 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.
Other start time factors include the location of the school district and the school type. For example, 54% of high schools in the suburbs start before 8:00 a.m. By contrast, over half of charter high schools start after 8:00 a.m., and high schools with fewer than 200 students begin around 8:15 a.m on average. (This study did not include data on private schools.)
Data on average middle school start times is less recent and does not include public charter or private schools. When assessed by the CDC for the 2011–2012 school year, the average start time at middle schools in the United States was at 8:04 a.m.4 This is slightly later than high schools. The middle school start times varied widely, too, depending on the state. This study also noted the start time for combined middle and high schools; the average was 8:08 a.m.