The Solution for Your Groggy Student? Doctors Say Later Start Times

Humans are interesting and peculiar creatures. We have the ability to make conscious decisions, we have preferences in taste and style, and for the most part we can decide what we want to do and when we want to do it. However, there are certain things we can’t live without, regardless of race, gender, or creed. We all need air, food, water, and sleep.

It’s easy to remember to eat, drink, and breathe; but we often take sleep for granted and believe we can cut back without negative consequences. Yet this is not the case. In the same way suffocation, malnutrition, and dehydration are serious problems, a lack of sleep can take its toll on the human body.

The Truth about Sleep in Today’s Society

We live in a fast-paced society. In fact, things move so quickly that we don’t realize the way it used to be 5, 10, or 50 years ago. While we may accomplish more and complete tasks and duties in a fraction of the time, it doesn’t mean we’re getting more rest. Rather, the opposite is true. Even though our efficiency has improved, we use the time we save to stay on top of other tasks. In the end, we get more done at the expense of rest or leisure.

This paradox is obvious in the corporate world, but what about the education system? Students – especially those in middle and high school – are packing their schedule with activity after activity, leaving little time for what’s most important: sleep. Each day consists of seven hours of class, two hours of practice, another hour of homework, dinner, and a bit of free-time; only to start over again.

Despite the notion that kids are full of energy and never stop “going,” research suggests that teenagers need more sleep than adults. While adults should sleep between seven and nine hours each night, teenagers require8.5 to 9.25 hours each time their heads hit the pillow. One study shows, sadly, that only 15 percent of teens get the minimum 8.5 hours of sleep on school nights. Additionally, the large majority of teenagers have very irregular sleep patterns, typically staying up late during the week and sleeping in during the weekends. This irregularity places a toll on their biological clocks.

The Call for Later Start Times

For years, doctors have attempted to discover ways to improve sleep in children and teenagers. Recently, some have argued that the best prescription is later school start times. Specifically, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that middle and high schools push start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Currently, 40 percent of U.S. high schools and 20 percent of middle schools start prior to 8 a.m.

According to Judith Owens, lead author of the “School Start Times for Adolescents” policy statement, “The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores, and an overall better quality of life.” She then points out that “studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”

The policy, which will arm parents and legislators with the facts and resources necessary to encourage change, could point to a healthier tomorrow. In the words of Owens, “This is a mechanism through which schools can really have a dramatic, positive impact for their students.”

Other Factors of Sleep Deprivation

While a lack of time is certainly one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation in students, it is not the only one. Other factors range from conscious to uncontrollable muscle weakness or drowsiness and vary in severity. For example, some students choose to stay up late, and a change in school start times will have no effect. Instead, these students will simply push their bedtime back another 30 minutes or hour to compensate for the additional time.

Another group, such as those suffering from sleep disorders or difficulties, may need additional help for their underlying issues. Thankfully, there are new technologies which help people of all ages get better quality sleep.

New Sleep Technologies

Some of the latest and most effective sleep technologies on the market include:

  • The Casper Mattress. Perhaps you make the effort to turn in early only to toss and turn for hours – sound familiar? Some people just can’t get comfortable at night. While this is often a result of stress and other factors, excessive restlessness can also be caused by poor mattress quality. Enter the Casper Mattress, which uses a blend of latex and memory foam to provide long lasting support that fits to human contours.
  • Good Morning Snore Solution. For those that snore and can’t seem to get the high quality sleep they need, there is a new and effective tool in the marketplace. Called the Good Morning Snore Solution, this product uses tongue displacement technology which is clinically proven to reduce snoring without creating a sore jaw. Anyone can see if they are a candidate by checking out this video which provides a 10 second eligibility test.
  • Basis Advanced Sleep Analysis. Can’t seem to put a finger on why you aren’t sleeping well? The Basis Advanced Sleep Analysis application can provide accurate and specific sleeping feedback, allowing users to improve health through higher quality sleep.

Better Sleep for a Healthier Life

High quality sleep is extremely important for your health. As the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, developing healthy sleep patterns should start from a young age and extend into adulthood. While implementing late start times may be difficult to do from a practical point of view, it’s always good to know there are other solutions. In their words, “Both the urgency and the magnitude of the problem of sleep loss in adolescents and the availability of an intervention that has the potential to have broad and immediate effects are highly compelling.”