Hey teenagers, ever feel like you just can’t get enough sleep? Find yourself droopy eyed during your morning classes? Parents, do you have trouble getting your children out of bed? Well, as our understanding of human development and biology advances, we are beginning to understand the nature of sleep and adolescence better. And it turns out that, for our youth, the adult sleep schedule may not be ideal.
A study published online in the July 7 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine discovered that pushing the time school starts back by half an hour can lead to benefits for students.
The study was conducted by Katherine Belon and sleep expert, Dr. Judy Owens, both from Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island, and Dr Patricia Moss, of St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island. St George’s is the small, private school where the study took place.
Typically, it is recommended that teenagers get about nine hours of sleep, but they usually don’t. And that sleep deprivation can negatively affect grades and motivation, and may lead to weight gain and the use of stimulants, according to an article about the study titled, “Teens More Alert, Motivated, When School Starts Later, US Study.” Read the article and learn more about the research here.
According to Owens, the biological development of teenagers leads to a change in the rhythms that guide their internal sleep clocks. Because of that, teenagers naturally stay up later and wake later. She said that an 11 p.m. bedtime and 8 a.m. wake time are about normal. Unfortunately, school bells don’t generally follow that schedule.
At St. George’s School, during the winter term, the researchers studied delaying the school’s start from 8 to 8:30 a.m. for 201 ninth to 12th graders.
Some of the results indicate that because of the change students slept more, didn’t feel as tired, had better motivation, and were more likely to make it to the first class of the day without being tardy.
The article goes on to discuss the fact that changing the time school starts is a controversial issue and that the research in the field does not give definitive proof that doing so will improve grades. Nevertheless, the findings of this most recent study do give school administrators, parents, and teenage students something to think about.
Owens also mentions that a school’s start time isn’t the only factor involved in student sleep deprivation. Jobs, homework, and other activities can also contribute. So, parents, while you can’t do anything about the school schedule just yet, perhaps you can help your children with time management to improve their chances of getting all the sleep they need.