Back to sleep: Most Northwest residents think teens don’t catch enough Zzzs, but agree with high school start times





SEATTLE – As teens head back to school, PEMCO Insurance is out with new poll results that show three-quarters of Northwest residents think that high school students get too little sleep during the school year. However, most agree that high school classes generally start at “about the right time.”

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, a majority of respondents (74 percent) think that high school students in Washington and Oregon aren’t getting the hours of sleep they need to be successful.

Yet, the poll reports that half of those respondents (52 percent) believe that high schools generally begin classes at the right time. Meanwhile, just one-quarter (26 percent) think classes begin too early in the morning.

“We know that parents, students, teachers and administrators are working hard to find solutions to this issue. At the same time, we were surprised by what our poll results show: many people think kids aren’t getting enough sleep, but most say start times are fine the way they are,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.

It’s clear that not everyone agrees with high schools’ early start times, and the PEMCO poll revealed that about one-third (34 percent) admit they don’t even know when high schools begin.

Women, though, are more likely than men to think high schools start too early – 30 percent of women compared to 21 percent of men think that first period comes too early. Still, a majority of women in Washington and Oregon (49 percent) agree with the current start times.

Similarly, younger people tend to think that schools start too early, when compared to their older counterparts – about one-third of people under 35 (31 percent) think start times are too early, while one-quarter of older people (24 percent) feel the same.

In Washington, many public high schools begin between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., with some extracurricular activities and electives scheduled even earlier during “zero period,” before the first bell rings. The same is true for many Oregon public high schools, while Portland high schools generally begin around 8:15 a.m.

“For many students, that means getting up and out the door by 6 a.m. if they participate in any before-school activities and classes. That’s early for most adults, let alone teenagers who often stay up late with homework and other obligations,” Osterberg commented.

In fact, studies have shown that adolescents’ growth patterns wire them to feel alert in the evening – even more so than they did at some points during the day – despite having been awake for a dozen or more hours.

“That would refute this being a simple matter of ‘Go to bed earlier,’” Osterberg said.

When it comes to shut eye, experts say that most teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night, but PEMCO’s poll shows that nearly one out of three (29 percent) think that seven hours per night is plenty for teens.

About half (48 percent) think that eight hours a night is sufficient for teens, but just a mere one out of 10 (11 percent) accurately estimate that teens should get a full 9 hours of sleep per night to be healthy and alert the next day. 

What’s more, a staggering 90 percent of teens report sleeping less than the recommended nine hours a night, according to a report published in the Journal of School Health.

“We know the demands on teens’ time make it difficult for them to get the sleep they need. But to stay alert – and safe – in school and behind the wheel, it’s critical they get what their bodies demand,” Osterberg said. 

Earlier this year, the Seattle School Board resolved to study the feasibility of shifting to later start times for adolescents. A decision on whether and how to shift start times for the 2016-17 school year will be brought to the Board in October 2015.

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in May 2014.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Two Years in a Row.” For J.D. Power award information, visit