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

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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.

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    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 November 22, 2021

    Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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    Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

    Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

    During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

    But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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    Simplify

    I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

    Absolutely.

    And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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    If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

    • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
    • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
    • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

    Be Mindful

    You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

    Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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    Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

    Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

    Reflect

    As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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    Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

    But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

    So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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    Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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