Pin It
sleepinggirlAdults are constantly amazed when their teenagers are able to sleep through the morning, wasting -- in the adult's estimation -- half the day.  But parents have long known what sleep specialists have documented -- that teenagers do better later in the day after a good night's sleep.  School Board member Karen McGreevey asked the Lansing Board of Education Monday for a review of school schedules to optimize student performance during the school day.

"Is it possible for the district and the School Board and the District Shared Decision making team to make looking at the way we schedule our school day in the elementary, middle and high schools a priority this year?" McGreevey asked.  "One idea is looking at the middle school and high school starting later."

McGreevey said that Shared Decision Making teams in the district have wanted to explore changing the school day for years, but it has never been seriously tackled in the district.  She said there have been conversations about the possibility of all three schools starting and ending at the same time, among other approaches.

Superintendent Chris Pettograsso said that a January district-level Shared Decision Making team meeting can be used to discuss the subject.

"If all students went at the same time bussing is the issue," Pettograsso said.  "If you increase the school day teacher contracts  are the issue because you are increasing the hours they are contractually obligated to work.  Ithaca is the only one that has switched their schedule, and there are certainly lots of things we can share about why they're able to switch their schedule."

According to the National Sleep Foundation pre-schoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep.  School aged children 5-10 years old need 10 or 11 hours, teenagers 10-17 need 8.5 to 9.25 hours and adults 7 to 9 hours of sleep.  Many sleep studies have shown that teenagers do not fall asleep readily before 11 p.m. or later, which would indicate an optimum start to the school day of some time after 9am or later (allowing time for breakfast and getting to school).  But the foundation says that sleep needs vary among individuals.  And studies have produced mixed results on the effects of too much sleep, some saying that nine hours of sleep or more may be associated with increased risk of illness, accidents or death, while others say there is little evidence that oversleeping has adverse effects.

What is clear is that students who don't get enough sleep do not perform well in school.  A study that was published in 1998 says the amount of time students sleep is key to their performance.  The study was conducted by Mary A. Carskadon and Christine Acebo of the Sleep Research Laboratory, E.P. Bradley Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine; Amy R. Wolfson, of the Department of Psychology, The College of the Holy Cross and Sleep Research Laboratory; Orna Tzischinsky of the Sleep Research Laboratory at Technion University; and Ronald Seifer, Developmental Psychopathology Laboratory, E.P. Bradley Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine.

"Imposition of an early school start time may require unrealistic -- if not unattainable -- bedtimes to provide adequate time for sleeping," the study concludes.  "Our study clearly showed that early school start times for adolescents were associated with significant sleep deprivation. The consequences of insufficient sleep in adolescents are substantial. Excessive sleepiness of the degree documented here can be associated with performance decrements, memory lapses, and mood changes, as well as behavior problems. In susceptible young people, this pattern may lead to academic, behavioral, and psychological problems, as well as increased risk for accidents and injuries, particularly for teenaged automobile drivers."

School districts that have switched to later start times for high school students have seen improvements in grades and fewer dropouts and traffic accidents.  Short sleep duration is also associated with an increased risk of heart problems and diabetes, depression and substance abuse, and reduced ability to pay attention in class.  Creative approaches like making each period five minutes shorter can help solve contractual issues.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends optimizing sleep by using a series of techniques including establishing consistent sleep schedules, using the bedroom only for sleep and keeping 'sleep stealers' like computers and televisions out of the bedrooms.  They say stopping eating two or three hours before bedtime, avoiding alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime, giving up smoking and regular exercise encourages sleep.

McGreevey said she wants to explore possible changes that will make students more productive and improve student achievement.

"The cost of busses and scheduling the busses seems to be the common road block for previous administrators, teachers, and board members to figure out how we can best utilize the time that we have to teach our children and meet all of the standards that are asking us to do more," McGreevey said.  "But we still have the same amount of time.  How do we make the most of the time that we do have with them?"

Pin It