August 3, 2010

BUT SCHOOL ISN'T FOR KIDS, IT'S FOR THEIR PARENTS:

No More Dozing Off in First Period: An 8:30 a.m. high school start time helps students get more sleep, stay alert in class, a pilot study finds. (Melinda Burns, 8/01/10, Miller-McCune)

The study shows that two months after the St. George’s School changed its start time from 8 to 8:30 a.m., students were getting 45 minutes more sleep on school nights, on average, or nearly eight hours in all. They were going to bed an average 18 minutes earlier, presumably because it felt so good. On Sundays, they spent less time sleeping to catch up.

“Well, for me,” one student said, “ever since the 8:30 start I have seen how much good 30 minutes of extra sleep does for me, so I have been inspired to … get an additional half hour on top of the 30 minutes.”

Teens are among the Americans least likely to get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group and proponent of later start times. Doctors recommend that adolescents get nine hours of sleep on school nights for optimal performance, but the research shows that they average less than seven. According to a recent foundation poll, 80 percent of U.S. teens are not getting nine hours of sleep.

“It’s not surprising that a large number of studies have now documented that the average adolescent is chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy,” said Judith Owens, a sleep expert at Rhode Island’s Hasbro Children’s Hospital and the lead researcher on the St. George’s study. The consequences, she said, can range from mood, attention and memory problems to obesity and low grades.

“We’re really fighting biology,” Owens added. “It’s time we started to recognize that sleep is not an optional activity. Adolescents cannot fall asleep much before 11 at night. If they have to start school at 8 a.m., they’re not going to get anywhere near the hours of sleep they need.”

A number of studies in the past decade have compared high schools and middle schools with different starting times, finding that even a half-hour later start can improve student dropout and attendance rates and help students concentrate. In one study, there was even a drop in the number of crashes due to drowsiness while driving.


If we cared about the kids we wouldn't make them waste their time on homework either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 3, 2010 5:47 PM
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