Thursday, January 8, 2009

Should Teens Start School Later?

The Washington Post reports that Fairfax County in Virginia is the latest school district to join the debate over school start times. A proposal would change the start time of most high schools in the county from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

The goal is to help sleep-deprived teens get more sleep. Research shows that
teen sleep loss is related in part to a biological change that occurs during the teen years.

A shift in the body clock’s timing makes it hard for teens to fall asleep before 11 p.m. As a result teens fail to get enough sleep when they have to get up early for school.

But will teens really get more sleep if school starts later in the morning? Or will they just stay up even later at night?

A new study in the
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine examined this question. It focused on a Kansas county that changed the high school start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Results show that the change had a positive effect.

A higher percentage of students got eight or nine hours of sleep per night. There was a decrease in “catch-up sleep” on weekends. Daytime sleepiness also decreased.

The study also suggests that school start times may be linked to
drowsy driving. Crash rates for teen drivers in the county dropped by 16.5 percent in the two years after the change. In the rest of the state teen crash rates increased 7.8 percent.

Changing school start times can be a complex decision. It requires altering bus schedules. It has an impact on after-school sports, activities and jobs. It also affects after-school care for younger children.

But the change may be worth the effort. A
study looked at how the change affected more than 12,000 high school students in the Minneapolis Public School District. It found that student attendance and enrollment improved. Students also got an average of five more hours of sleep per week.

So what do you think? Should teens get a later start in the morning?


Anonymous said...

yes teens should get more sleep in the morning to increase grades.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Being a teen myself, I can attest to the fact that the majority of teens do not get enough sleep to function at their best due to early schools start times. This is not due to the fact that teens are just WILL NOT go to sleep earlier, in many cases, it's the fact that their natural sleep rhythms won't let them go to sleep earlier...

Many adults are so close-minded to the fact that teens need more sleep, but it's true. Even the National Sleep Foundation is advocating schools to start later for teenagers. If more would open their minds to scientific research, and realize that teens could function much better when they get an adequate amount of sleep instead of waking up tired everyday and going to school super early, then our society would move much more smoothly as a whole.

Birthblessed said...

Our school switched elem. and h.s. last year-- so that teens were 8:35-3:45. The youngsters were 7:20 to 2:40. For this mom, this was IDEAL.

My 3rd grader has no trouble falling asleep at 8 p.m. and waking at 6. He was chipper in the morning, got himself ready for school and volunteered to leave at 6:58 to walk 3 blocks to school and have breakfast there before classes started. At the same time, my 8th, 10th and 11th graders dealt very well with their schedule, almost never oversleeping and missing the bus to school. I have athletes, and yes, sometimes they didn't get home until 8 p.m., but if they had an after school job it'd be the same. They still had time to do homework and get to bed. No one ever acted as if they had not been getting enough sleep- attitudes and moods were stable.

This summer the school district flip-flopped the bell times back. My elementary student was so distressed over not getting home until nearly 4- with the release time of 2:40 there was still plenty of time for afternoon play, but at 4 it will be dark once DST is over. I decided to pull him out of school and homeschool him so that he would not be affected by the bell time change.

But my teens- I offered to homeschool them, too (they were for elem). But they all wanted to be at school. It's been 8 mornings now, and I'm ready to disenroll them! It's so frustrating. Everyone is grumpy. They fall asleep doing their homework at 8 p.m. My 9th grader is having a very difficult time understanding his math (he made all As last year) even the most simple concepts. His eyes are red and he just stares at the math and falls asleep on the table. I'm not seeing them more hours a day-- my athlete and the one with the after school job each get home between 6:30 and 7, grab a bite and go straight to their rooms to fall asleep on their bed with their homework open under their face. They actually are falling asleep in exhaustion around 8:30 without getting homework finished, and what's done is done poorly.

I hope they adapt soon! And I'm SO glad that none of them are driving! My 11th grader is riding his bike (he goes to a fine arts school, the other two go to a college prep school) and I fear for his safety every morning because I don't think he's actually awake when he leaves!

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