Changing school start time: more sleep or more mayhem?

Students are supposed to receive 9 and one-fourth hours hours every night -- most don’t. This leads to poor learning in school.

 

Students are supposed to receive 9 and one-fourth hours hours every night -- most don’t. This leads to poor learning in school.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers should sleep for 9+ hours every night. Additionally, most teenagers naturally fall asleep at 11 p.m.  and wake up at 8 a.m.

According to a study by Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom, 201 high school students’ school start time was pushed back from 8:00am to 8:30am to test the effects of more sleep on students. The researchers found that even this relatively small delay came with a large array of results.

“Students reported less depression when there was a later starting time…And teachers reported that students were more alert and ready for learning. Parents reported that their children were easier to live with because their emotions were more regulated,” the study reported. It was also noted that there was less depression, reduced tardiness, better grades, less of a risk of falling asleep and a reduced risk of metabolic and nutritional deficits.

The researchers were surprised to learn that students were not only sleeping later in the morning, but also went to bed earlier as well. In total, during the two month study, students gained an average of 45 minutes sleep on school nights.

Additionally, the number of students receiving fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night dropped 80% during the study period and by the end of the two-month trial, the number of teens sleeping for at least 8 hours per night jumped from 16.4% to 54.7%. Teachers also reported that fewer students skipped class.

On the flip-side, delaying school times has negative effects. First off, most school systems have an established transportation system that is inexpensive and efficient. Even a miniscule time change would completely change the system.

Athletics would also be affected by the change of time. A delay in the start of school would most likely result in a later release time, which may reduce time available for sports practices after school. One result of later release times may be greater competition for field and gym space, which may result in the cancellation of some programs.

Younger children, elementary school kids typically, would be affected. If high schools would change their start time, they would replace the elementary school start time and the elementary time would be also have to be moved earlier.  If elementary students have the earliest start times, they may be waiting for the bus in the dark early mornings, or waiting at home alone after school.

1 Comment on "Changing school start time: more sleep or more mayhem?"

  1. Christine McGrath | April 27, 2012 at 9:06 am |

    Well-balanced article. I love all of the statistical back-up and facts. Plus, I slept in this morning myself!

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