The science behind delayed school start times

OLDalifornia teens can snooze a little later this year, thanks a new law is made that said most middle schools and middle schools can’t start before 8:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. respectively.

That law — the first in the nation to create a statewide mandate for school start times — has implications not only for California students but also for public health professionals fighting the disease. what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has called The ‘pandemic’ of sleep deprivation in adolescents. Both AAP and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long been opposed to early morning school hours and in favor of middle and high school bell times no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The delayed start of school is an attempt to help teenagers sleep morewhich research shows is a big problem in the US Only about 30% of high school students are recommended to get eight hours of sleep on school nights, according to the CDC data. Studies show lack of sleep may put adolescents and young adults at increased risk for obesity, substance use, depression and poor school performance, among other problems.

Research has long shown that Circadian rhythms—Light-mediated internal cues that help regulate sleep — change throughout the life cycle. That’s part of the reason why adults may find themselves naturally taller earlier as they age. Teenagers’ body clocks, meanwhile, are best synced with bedtime around 11 p.m. or midnight and woke up about nine hours later — an impossible timeline when classes start before 8 a.m.

Read more: Personalized Circadian watches could be the next frontier of personalized medicine

Early class schedule it’s mostly a retention since most families don’t have two working parents and so don’t need to worry about sticking to a 9 to 5 hour schedule. The juggling act of scheduling bus routes, classes, athletics, and other extracurriculars set the early bells ringing.

But these schedules have no scientific basis. Studies have long suggested that a mismatch between teenagers’ internal rhythms and external schedules causes them to fail. A newspaper in 1998 found that when a small group of students started school about an hour earlier than before, they experienced “significant sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness.”

Moving start time back has been shown to have the opposite effect. A 2002 study conducted five years after seven public high schools in Minneapolis moved their start times from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. shows that the change allows children about an hour more sleep each night; Students also reported better attendance at school and fewer depressive symptoms. In a 2010 studyResearchers tested students at a Rhode Island high school after the school moved its start time from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and found that students slept 45 minutes more each night, while also reported less fatigue and better mood.

More recently, a research published in 2021 found that many Denver-area middle and high school students got enough sleep every day after the local school district delayed the start time by 40 to 70 minutes. Another 2021 research in Colorado, students found that those who started school before 8:30 a.m. were slightly more likely to commit suicide than their classmates who started later, although the results were not statistically significant. Although more research is needed and many confounding variables may confound the association, the findings suggest that starting classes later can improve youth mental health.

But changing the bell time is not a panacea. Research Review February 2022 examined the association between later start times and academic achievement showing mixed results, with some schools reporting positive effects and others reporting negative or ambiguous consequences of change.

There are also many logistics services to compete with. In 2016, public schools in Durham, NC, moved their start times from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. survey conducted the following year, only 26% of school staff said children were getting better rest and only 14% said they were learning more. Only 13% of school staff and 27% of parents wanted to keep the new schedule. Why? The drastic change means the school day ends later, pushes extracurriculars, after-school work and homework later into the evening, and sometimes keeps kids up past their old bedtimes. .

Read more: Inside the great effort to change the way children are taught to read

In 2018, schools in Newport, RI, revert to their original start time after a two-year experiment with subsequent bells created a number of logistical headaches, including difficulty coordinating with nearby schools and scheduling extracurriculars. Transportation can also be an issue, whether it’s adjusting bus schedules, competing with traffic patterns, or finding ways to get working parents to drop off their kids later in the morning, Some schools have learned from their mistakes after pushing their schedules later.

California teacher, Jeremy Adams, raised many of these concerns one January Cal problems op-ed, added that the new state law would inconvenience teachers who must remain in school for extracurriculars to begin after the school day ends. “Ultimately,” Adams writes, “this law will become a case study of ‘unwanted consequences.

The start-of-school debate remains an active area of ​​research. For example, a group in Colorado, studying Changing the start time will not only affect the health of students, but how it affects families, teachers, and the wider community. And all eyes will be on statewide change in California, as education researcher Deborah Temkin says. told NBC News after the policy was first passed in 2019. “If this is successful, with relatively few consequences, then I think that’s something other states will probably consider,” Temkin said.

With the school year just beginning, it’s too early to say how the test will play out. But like some high school students in California told the Mercury News, it will take more than a late start bell to cure their fatigue. “When you were in high school, no matter what time you woke up, you would be very tired,” senior Anika Bose said. “At least now I have time to have a cup of coffee before class.”

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