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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.

    More by this author

    David K. William

    David is a publisher and entrepreneur. He is also the founding editor of Web Writer Spotlight.

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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