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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Early School Start Times Are Not Good for Students

From Smart Kids with LD

June 2, 2014

Early school start times are hazardous to your child’s health. That’s the conclusion of sleep expert Paul Kelly, Ph.D., who recently joined policy analyst Clark Lee, J.D. in publishing a report calling for later school start times—particularly for schools that serve adolescents.

Using two decades of research to bolster their argument, Kelly and Lee claim:
  • Research shows adolescents, driven to later wake/sleep times by their biological clocks, lose as much as an average of 2.7 hours of sleep on school days.
  • There is virtually unanimous agreement in the research community that later start times in adolescent education would produce a positive change in adolescent learning, health and safety.
  • Few, if any, educational interventions are so strongly supported by research evidence from so many different disciplines and experts in the field.
Citing multiple studies, Kelly and Clark make a strong case for the deleterious effect inadequate sleep has on adolescents and young adults including impaired learning:

“A 2013 study found that subjects restricted to six hours or less per night had cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to two nights of total sleep deprivation.”

For students struggling with learning issues, not enough sleep may increase their daily challenges.

In addition to poorer learning outcomes, not enough sleep is associated with increased risk of accidents and injuries, obesity, depression, and sleep disorders. Adolescents (and adults) who are sleep-deprived are more likely to indulge in “risky behaviors to control sleep including the use of sleep medications and depressants such as alcohol at night and stimulants during the day (including coffee and other highly caffeinated drinks and smoking).”

Recognizing the difficulties in changing community norms, the authors nonetheless challenge the powers that be to find ways to amend their policies:

"Despite the substantial body of evidence from scientific, medical and education research supporting later school starts, almost all adolescent education in the United States currently has early start times. This leaves states, school districts and other responsible bodies in the untenable position of defending a current practice that has been demonstrated to be detrimental to student learning, health and safety.

It seems prudent for these parties to demonstrate a greater awareness of the issues, engage with other stakeholders and consider some of the options for reasonable and appropriate changes."

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For more details, see Later School Start Times in Adolescence: Time for Change by Paul Kelley and Clark Lee, in Education Commission of the States.

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