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Sleep Outfitters Asks, Would Students Perform Better if Schools Started Later in the Day? Many think so.

Sleep Outfitters Asks, Would Students Perform Better if Schools Started Later in the DaySleep has always been fascinating to us at Sleep Outfitters. We are, after all, in the mattress business, selling perhaps the most important piece of furniture you’ll ever purchase; one on which you’ll spend one-third of your life. While most people would seem to take sleep for granted, focusing their attention on their waking hours, we believe the health implications of sleep are just as important as those for diet and exercise.

For instance, there is a growing body of research that suggests the school day begins too early, and deprives students of sleep that would otherwise help them perform better.

In November, the Seattle school board voted to move school start times an hour later, to 8:45 a.m., for all high schools and most middle schools, beginning with the fall semester of 2016. Seventy of the nation’s more than 24,000 school districts have made similar changes in hopes it will improve student performance.

“We’re going to look back on this time period and wonder why it took so long,” said Phyllis Payne of Start School Later, a group that advocates for later school start times.

Research shows later start times help combat sleep deprivation and improve academic performance in teens. A University of Kentucky study found that early start times for elementary school students could result in poorer attendance and lower standardized test scores. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control concur.

For the first time, the CDC recommends starting school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., in order for students to get the necessary 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. This after a CDC study found that 75 to 100 percent of schools start before 8:30 a.m. in 42 U.S. states. Louisiana had the earliest average school start time, at 7:40 a.m., while Alaska had the latest at 8:33 a.m.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says two out of three U.S. high school students sleep less than eight hours on school nights. Such lack of sufficient sleep can lead to obesity, lack of physical activity, depression, risky behavior–such as smoking or substance abuse–and poor school performance.

“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance,” said Anne Wheaton, Ph.D., lead author and epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Population Health. “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”

In September, British sleep researcher Paul Kelley, of the University of Oxford, suggested schools in the U.K. should start as late as 11 a.m., according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. He said students aged eight to 10 should start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., 16-year-olds should start at 10 a.m. and 18-year-olds should start latest, at 11 a.m.

For years, educators and parents likely thought their kids’ poor school performances were due to the kids staying up too late. While that may be, research indicates it’s not necessarily the kids’ fault. It may be due to their chronotypes.

Their what?
Every human is born with distinct, inherited circadian rhythms that dictate when we like to wake and go to bed. One’s chronotype is the physical manifestation of one’s personal circadian rhythms. Some of us are early risers, who perform best in the early hours of the day. Such folks are considered A chronotypes. Those who like to stay up and wake up later, and, hence, perform better in the afternoon or at night, are B chronotypes. And 80 percent of 10- to 20-year-olds are B chronotypes, according to the b-society, a Danish organization that advocates for societal changes to accommodate people who perform better later in the day.

While a person cannot change their inherited chronotype, chronotypes can, and do, change over a person’s lifetime. Such changes are pronounced in adolescents and teens, producing morning fatigue and afternoon and nighttime energy, making it harder to fall asleep.

“At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our nine-to-five lifestyle,” Kelley said. “When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around three hours later, which is entirely natural.”

“This is a huge issue for society,” Kelley said. “We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14-24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.”

Later bedtimes for children and teens can also be attributed to the blue light emitted by TV and digital device screens, which can trick our brains into thinking we should stay awake. Best to turn off those screens an hour or so before bedtime.

Our slogan at Sleep Outfitters is, “outfitting you for a healthy life.” Like the best slogans, it has real meaning behind it. A good night’s sleep is crucial to good health. Sleep well.

Sleep Outfitters
For more information, contact:
Greg McGraw, Territory Sales Manager
Innovative Mattress Solutions (Sleep Outfitters & Mattress Warehouse)
614-436-4115 . gmcgraw@sleeponthebest.com