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Study Finds Current School Start Times Damage Students’ Learning And Health

Study Finds Current School Start Times Damage Students’ Learning And Health

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need at least nine-and-a-half hours of sleep every night. However, less than half of children in the U.S get at least nine hours of sleep each night, and 58 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds regularly sleep fewer than seven hours per night, reports the Foundation.

“Sleep deprivation is epidemic among adolescents, with potentially serious impacts on mental and physical health, safety and learning. Early high school start times contribute to this problem,” notes Julie Boergers, Ph.D., a psychologist and sleep expert from the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center. Among an estimated 39,700 public middle, high and combined schools (with an estimated total enrollment of 26.3 million students) in the U.S, the average start time was 8:03 am in the 2011-12 school year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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New studies shows that’s too early.

The problem with current school start times

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    Early school start times disrupt student’s circadian rhythm, or the biological clock that the body uses to regulate body functions, such as keep track of when to eat and sleep. That’s according to a new study by researchers from University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School and the University of Nevada.

    A natural circadian rhythm that is in sync with the daily 24-hour cycle determines when we’re most alert and focused. For adolescents, this time is almost 3 hours later than for fully grown adults. The researchers from Oxford, Harvard and Nevada explain: “During adolescence biological changes dictate both sleep duration of nine hours and later wake and sleep times, a phenomenon found in other mammals. At its peak the combination of these two biological changes leads to a loss of two to three hours sleep every school day. Thus, a 07:00 alarm call for older adolescents is the equivalent of a 04:30 start for a teacher in their 50s.”

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    So, early school start times lead to “systematic, chronic and unrecoverable sleep loss,” wrote the study authors. This shocking revelation that current school start times are damaging students’ learning and health has been corroborated by other experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics’ statement

    In a public policy statement, the formidable American Academy of Pediatrics stated that “insufficient sleep in adolescents [is] an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students.”

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    Dr. Paul Kelley, honorary clinical research fellow at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, speaking at the British Science Festival in Bradford, England emphasized there was need for society to change school and work starting times to fit with the natural human body clock. “The science explicitly shows that many people are suffering unnecessarily because of our work and study start times,” Kelley said. “There’s no real rationale for start times for schools so there’s a huge opportunity here to improve quality of life by putting these scientific findings into practice,” he concluded.

    So what are the best school start times?

    The optimal schools start time is at 8:30 am or later at age 10; 10:00 am or later at 16; and 11:00 am or later at 18 and above, say the researchers from Oxford, Harvard and the University of Nevada. Their study originally appeared in the journal Learning, Media, and Technology.

    While schools are not presently obligated to follow these sleep experts’ start time recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics argues in its report that, “the urgency and the magnitude of the problem of sleep loss in adolescents and the availability of an intervention that has the potential to have broad and immediate effects are highly compelling.”

    The researchers from the three universities agree and say in their report that adopting these start times would protect kids from short sleep duration, chronic sleep deprivation and the health complications associated with them. That would in turn help improve students’ academic performance and health, and of course, ease parents’ frustrations in trying to get sleepy kids ready for school every morning.

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    David K. William

    David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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