BRECKSVILLE, Ohio — The alarm starts buzzing at 5:30 a.m. for Brecksville-Broadview Heights high school sophomore Katie McGrath.
"Ohhh. I immediately turn it off and go back to bed," she said with a laugh.
After getting about six hours of sleep, Katie heads to the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning to catch the bus for school, where classes start at 7:20 a.m.
"Everyone's so tired. That's the first thing we'll say to each other, we're like, we're so tired!"
Michelle McGrath, Katie's mom, is concerned.
"How much productivity are they seeing in that first hour of school? Because they're still kind of waking up, because it's so early."
Brecksville-Broadview Heights City School District is one of at least two Northeast Ohio school districts considering later start times. The Cuyahoga Falls school district will discuss changing school start times during the 2020-2021 school year.
"We are really taking a hard look at how we are routing kids, and looking at actual ridership, and putting all those pieces together so we can see what we can change," said Joelle Magyar, BBHCSD Superintendent.
A growing number of districts nationwide are making the change, following a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urged communities to enact later school start times, adding that the ideal start time for high school is 8:30 a.m. The report cited studies found that teens who got more sleep, performed better in school, and made better decisions.
Doctors say there are physiological reasons why teens can't simply go to bed earlier.
"During puberty many things change with sleep," said Dr. Samuel Friedlander, sleep expert at University Hospitals. "It turns out that adolescents need more sleep than younger children. Also, their circadian rhythm, or their sleep/wake cycle, adjusts so that it encourages teenagers to go to bed later and to wake up later."
"So at the same time that teenagers need more sleep, they're actually getting less sleep because of social pressure, school homework and extracurricular activities," said Friedlander.
Two years ago, the Seattle school district moved high school start times an hour later. Last December, the University of Washington released findings of a study that found that as a result, teens got 34 minutes more sleep per night, and median grades improved by 4.5 percent.
At the same time, doctors say parents should enforce better sleep habits for their children. Dr. Friedlander says there should be zero screen time for teens one hour before bedtime.
"Light is one of the most powerful triggers for resetting the body clock, and so if we trick the body accidentally, really, by using screen time, it can have negative consequences," he said.
District leaders agree, saying parents need to play an important role too.
"One size does not fit all," said Magyar. "It's never just one answer."