The Battleground School District in Battleground, Washington doesn’t think so and they are going to do something about it. Starting at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, most schools in the district will start and end their day one half hour later than it did last year. The School District sights national studies that conclude that decreased sleep is potentially very harmful to school aged children as the prompting for making this change.
So, what are these studies saying about sleep and our kids? Well according to an October, 2007 article entitled Snooze or Lose in New York Magazine on-line, most elementary to high school students are getting one hour less of sleep each night than they used to get 30 years ago. Maybe an hour doesn’t seem like much, but where sleep and kids are concerned, it can have a major impact on cognitive (thinking) abilities. Dr. Avi Sedah of Tel-Aviv University was able to demonstrate in one of his sleeps studies that 4th and 6th grade students who had just one hour less of sleep for three nights performed significantly lower on neurobiological functioning tests. In fact, he found that 6th grader’s who were sleep deprived by just one hour would perform worse than a 4th grader who had adequate sleep.
Now multiply this short-term sleep deprivation by many days and weeks because of our busier lifestyle, and you get kids who just can’t concentrate at school because they are feeling extremely tired.
Po Bronson in his article, Snooze or Lose, reports:
Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota surveyed more than 7,000 high schoolers in Minnesota about their sleep habits and grades. Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged eleven more minutes than the C’s, and the C’s had ten more minutes than the D’s. Wahlstrom’s data was an almost perfect replication of results from an earlier study of more than 3,000 Rhode Island high schoolers by Brown’s Mary Carskadon. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out.
Increased caffeine consumption, busy schedules, technology (including TV’s in the bedroom), homework and even parental guilt over not spending enough time with their kids all contribute to children getting less sleep than suggested. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children aged 3-5 should be getting 11-13 hours of sleep each night and school aged children aged 5-12 should be sleeping 10-11 hours each night. While it may present some challenges for students, parents, and schools, the effects of moving back start times are compelling.
The Battleground School District isn’t the first school district to make such a change. Many school districts around the country are making school start times later and seeing dramatic results from letting kids sleep longer. From increased SAT scores to a decrease in teen traffic accidents, one can’t help but admit that the lack of sleep is causing problems for many kids and parents. Improved mood, increased school attendance and ability to complete homework are also positive results of students getting more sleep due to later school start times.
So if it seems like your kids have struggled in school in the past, take a look at how much sleep they are getting and their pre-sleeping Maybe a few adjustments will allow them to be more successful in school. The pay could be even more far reaching than that.
For more information on children and sleep please see The National Sleep Foundation website