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Andrew Fenelon

Jilli Jung, Andrew Fenelon.

A later school start time policy has been recommended as a solution to adolescents’ sleep deprivation. We estimated the impacts of later school start times on adolescents’ sleep and substance use by leveraging a quasi-experiment in which school start time was delayed in some regions in South Korea. A later school start time policy was implemented in 2014 and 2015, which delayed school start times approximately 30-90 minutes. We applied difference-in-differences and event-study designs to longitudinal data on a nationally-representative cohort of adolescents from 2010 to 2015, which annually tracked sleep and substance use of 1,133 adolescents from grade 7 through grade 12. The adoption of a later school start time policy was initially associated with a 19-minute increase in sleep duration (95% CI, 5.52 to 32.04), driven by a delayed wake time and consistent bedtime. The policy was also associated with statistically significant reductions in monthly smoking and drinking frequencies. However, approximately a year after implementation, the observed increase in sleep duration shrank to 7-minute (95% CI, -12.60 to 25.86) and became statistically nonsignificant. Similarly, the observed reduction in smoking and drinking was attenuated a year after. Our findings suggest that policies that increase sleep in adolescents may have positive effects on health behaviors, but additional efforts may be required to sustain positive impacts over time. Physicians and education and health policymakers should consider the long-term effects of later school start times on adolescent health and well-being.

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