Thursday, October 12, 2006

Students rack up 10-15 hours of sleep debt a week

This news article, Women Voters Appeal for Later School Start, caught my eye.

Here's a few excerpts:

Students rack up 10 to 15 hours of sleep debt a week by getting six to seven hours a sleep a night, which is the equivalent of pulling one all-nighter. Anecdotal evidence from middle- and high-school parents also showed older students are not getting enough sleep. Stone said this raises concerns for their health, well-being and ability to reach their learning.

Sleep patterns change at adolescence, which does not mix well with early school start times. Students cannot necessarily go to bed earlier because their bodies release the drowsiness-inducing hormone melatonin later in the day, Himmel said. A Connecticut Board of Education study done in 2003 revealed that adolescents are more alert later in the day while younger children are more alert earlier.

Sleep deprivation can bring several health problems, according to the league's research. Students who don't get enough sleep can suffer from irritability, moodiness, emotional instability, aggressiveness and stress, said committee co-chair Peggy Dannemann. Sleep deprivation also can take a toll on cognitive function. She said students can have a harder time paying attention and a slower reaction time, or succumb to involuntary naps to catch up on their missed sleep.

Sleep-deprived students also tend to rely more on stimulants such as caffeine and have a higher rate of drug use...

"A tired child is an accident waiting to happen," Dannemann said, adding that 55 percent of the 100,000 car accidents caused by drowsy drivers each year are by 16- to 25-year-old drivers.

...44 percent of high school parents drive their children to school specifically to give them more time sleeping and 32 percent of high school students drive themselves to school for that reason.

Now this is the part of the article I thought was very interesting:

Opinion from the schools' professional staff, however, was mixed. Saxe Middle School had 71 percent of its staff wanting later start times, but only 34 percent of New Canaan High School staff agreed.

It will be interesting to see what the school board decides. Will the 34% of New Canaan High School staff against the time change be counted more important than scientific data and the 84% of New Canann High School parents who support the change?

This topic resonates with me. In highschool, I had many sleep related problems. My high school started at 7:30 am. Early morning swim practice started at 6 am and marching band practice at 7 am. I would get up at 4:45 am, to leave my house by 5:30 am to make the 20 minute walk to the swimming pool.

I made myself a little nuts. I would sometimes forge notes from home so that I could sluff school and come home to sleep in the afternoon. Even after I was no longer on the swim team, I would still periodically skip school to come home and sleep. I would also sleep through classes. Luckily, I had some good teachers who would only wake me up if we were covering material I didn't all ready know.

Most of my sleep problems ended when I was no longer in highschool. However, I have some residual side effects. I get very anxious and can't sleep the night before I need to get up early in the morning. I also got in the habit of sleeping anytime I stopped moving.

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Spunky said...

I don't know how teens do it with the early school start. My children are early risers but not nearly the "out the door" by 6:30AM teens in our neighborhood. There is definitely a homeschool advantage in the sleep department.

Janine Cate said...

Yes, I agree. Even with children in lower grades, I see the advantage. It is more than just sleep, but stress. Rushing to get to school on time looks pretty stressful to me. That's very different from our leisurely homeschool day.

Of course, we are rushing out the door to get to piano lessons, homeschool band, violin lessons, co-op, park day, and soccer practice. But, all those things happen in the afternoon/evening. So, it's not too bad.

MonicaR said...

I remember the ordeal of getting off to school early for many years. I couldn't get out of bed - - always running to catch the bus - slogging down an Instant Breakfast (yuck!) - falling asleep in class. Terrible.

After I entered the working world (post Army) I ended up on midnight shift. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh - my internal clock appeased at last! I still can't sleep at night but would happily sleep all day.

Both of the girls go to bed a bit later than most and arise whenever they wake up. I love that about educating the kids at home. Most of our rushing is afternoon/evening too - which is fine as we are all 'up' by then.

christinemm said...

Fairfield Connecticut schools grappled with this issue last year, and actually they may have debated it for two full years. But the item is closed for discussion now.

Parents were behind the proposal to start school later in the morning, and studies were cited. In the end they negotiated it down to what seemed like a nominal time to me, perhaps 30 minutes, if my memory serves me correctly.

However in the very end it fell through. The teachers union was not supportive of it. The whole arguement was about the TEACHERS and staff and not what was best for the children.

Put this on your list of reasons that prove that the teachers union is for the teachers and that the teachers are for themselves, not for the students. If everything was about what was best for the children/teens/students then many things would be different in school (such as food that is sold in the cafeteria and whether or not the school sells soda to students in vending machines, for profit making).

The high school bus comes to get the kids in my neighborhood at 6:30am. My heart goes out to them. (My high school bus used to come at 7:10am. but if I caught it one block down on its return trip I could catch it at 7:35am.)

Janine Cate said...

Thinking back, I wonder if the problems I had with depression in highschool were caused by sleep deprevation. I have not had problems with depression since I've been out of high school.

Anonymous said...

Sleep issues and depression are probably related--but which one the cause, and which one the effect? It could be either way.

In Texas, the issue hasn't been what time of day to start, but what time of year to start. Next year, the Legislature has stipulated that no one can start before the end of August. Did the reason have anything to do with education? The kids? No. It was so that the tourist industry could benefit from a longer summer.

Heather said...

My husband TO THIS DAY can fall asleep anywhere - for the same reason Janine.

I am SO GLAD that we have started down this road - my children sleep in until about 8am and don't even want breaksfat for another 45 miniutes, if they were in public school thay would have to be at school by 8:50. This would NOT WORK for our family. Nevermind that Mama likes her sleep too!

JAron said...

Ok - first of all, the studies that have been used are flawed..
many have not even been peer reviewed.

The "later start times" being pushed by the League of Women Voters has an agenda attached.. it isn't for the good of the kids .. it is to make way for a window of bus pickup time for preschoolers.. I know because this is going on in my town and in my state..
It is also an attempt to identify "sleep disorders" in teens to put them on sleep medication.. yes the pharmaceutical companies are behind this as well..
don't fool yourself into thinking that this is "for the children's benefit"

secondly.. it has been shown that more the cause of sleep deprivation is our technology .. kids stay up on the computer or on their Ipods or watching Conan Late night when they ought to be getting some sleep.

Yes - we are fortunate as homeschoolers to allow our days to begin at whatever time we like.. but the issue of sleep deprivation is being used in a major way to usher in other agendas..


Janine Cate said...

> it is to make way for a window of bus pickup time for preschoolers..

Oh, I hope not. That whole preschool thing makes me ill every time I think about it.

Medicating for sleep issues sounds like a recipe for disaster.