Does school start too early?

5 May

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn. Moi wrote about the fact that school children need sleep in Teens need sleep

Reuters is reported in the article, Too Little Sleep Raises Obesity Risk In Children

Children aged four and under who get less than 10 hours of sleep a night are nearly twice as likely to be overweight or obese five years later, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers from the University of California and University of Washington in Seattle looked at the relationship between sleep and weight in 1,930 children aged 0 to 13 years old who took part in a survey in 1997 and again five years later in 2002.

For children who were four years old or younger at the time of the first survey, sleeping for less than 10 hours a night was associated with nearly a twofold increased risk of being overweight or obese at the second survey.

For older children, sleep time at the first survey was not associated with weight status at the second survey but current short sleep time was associated with increased odds of a shift from normal weight to overweight status or from overweight or obese status at follow up. Dr. Janice F. Bell from the University of Washington said this study suggested that early childhood could be a “critical window” when nighttime sleep helps determine a child’s future weight status. According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers aged one to three years old should sleep for 12 to 14 hours a night; preschoolers, aged 3 to 5 years old, should sleep 11 to 13 hours, and 5- to 10-year-olds should get 10 to 11 hours. Teens should get 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep nightly.

Several studies have linked short sleep to excess weight in children and teens, Bell and fellow researcher Dr. Frederick Zimmerman from the University of California noted in their report.

But many of these studies have been cross-sectional, meaning they looked at a single point in time, which makes it difficult to determine whether not getting adequate sleep caused a child to become obese, or vice versa.

These findings, said the researchers, suggest there is a critical time period prior to age five when adequate nightly sleep may be important in terms of a healthy weight later on.

Children need proper nutrition and sleep not only to be healthy and happy, but to be ready to learn.

Amanda L. Chan is reporting in the Huffington Post article, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Linked With Attention Problems In Kids: Study:

If your child is having trouble focusing while doing schoolwork, you might need to take a look at his or her sleep habits, a new study suggests.

New research published in the journal SLEEP shows that excessive daytime sleepiness (or EDS) is linked with an increased risk of trouble paying attention at school, being hyperactive, difficulty learning and conduct problems.

“When children are referred for neurobehavioral problems, they should be assessed for potential risk factors for EDS,” study researcher Susan Calhoun, Ph.D., of Penn State University, said in a statement. “Recognizing and treating EDS can offer new strategies to address some of the most common neurobehavioral challenges in young school-age children.”

The study included 508 children who were part of the Penn State Child Cohort. The researchers conducted sleep testing on them and had the parents report whether their children had any excessive daytime sleepiness. Then, they divided the children up into two groups: One that had the excessive daytime sleepiness, and one that didn’t.

The researchers found that excessive daytime sleepiness was linked with “neurobehavioral (learning, attention/hyperactivity, conduct) problems and poorer performance in processing speed and working memory,” researchers wrote in the study.

Rather, researchers found that factors like depression or anxiety, inattention, obesity, asthma and trouble falling asleep were linked with excessive daytime sleepiness in the kids (even those who “got enough sleep” during the sleep testing, and didn’t have sleep apnea).http://www.

Here is the abstract for the study:

Study Objectives:

Although excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is a common problem in children, with estimates of 15%; few studies have investigated the sequelae of EDS in young children. We investigated the association of EDS with objective neurocognitive measures and parent reported learning, attention/hyperactivity, and conduct problems in a large general population sample of children.




Population based.


508 children from The Penn State Child Cohort.



Measurements and Results:

Children underwent a 9-h polysomnogram, comprehensive neurocognitive testing, and parent rating scales. Children were divided into 2 groups: those with and without parent-reported EDS. Structural equation modeling was used to examine whether processing speed and working memory performance would mediate the relationship between EDS and learning, attention/hyperactivity, and conduct problems. Logistic regression models suggest that parent-reported learning, attention/hyperactivity, and conduct problems, as well as objective measurement of processing speed and working memory are significant sequelae of EDS, even when controlling for AHI and objective markers of sleep. Path analysis demonstrates that processing speed and working memory performance are strong mediators of the association of EDS with learning and attention/hyperactivity problems, while to a slightly lesser degree are mediators from EDS to conduct problems.


This study suggests that in a large general population sample of young children, parent-reported EDS is associated with neurobehavioral (learning, attention/hyperactivity, conduct) problems and poorer performance in processing speed and working memory. Impairment due to EDS in daytime cognitive and behavioral functioning can have a significant impact on children’s development.


Calhoun SL; Fernandez-Mendoza J; Vgontzas AN; Mayes SD; Tsaoussoglou M; Rodriguez-Muñoz A; Bixler EO. Learning, attention/hyperactivity, and conduct problems as sequelae of excessive daytime sleepiness in a general population study of young children. SLEEP 2012;35(5):627-632.

Table of Contents

Lindsey Tanner, AP medical writer in a story which was reprinted at SeattlePI.Com reports on a study which says teens do better with later start times for school. In Study Shows Teens Benefit From Later School Day Tanner reports:

Giving teens 30 extra minutes to start their school day leads to more alertness in class, better moods, less tardiness, and even healthier breakfasts, a small study found.

“The results were stunning. There’s no other word to use,” said Patricia Moss, academic dean at the Rhode Island boarding school where the study was done. “We didn’t think we’d get that much bang for the buck.”

The results appear in July’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results mirror those at a few schools that have delayed starting times more than half an hour.

Researchers say there’s a reason why even 30 minutes can make a big difference. Teens tend to be in their deepest sleep around dawn – when they typically need to arise for school. Interrupting that sleep can leave them groggy, especially since they also tend to have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m.

“There’s biological science to this that I think provides compelling evidence as to why this makes sense,” said Brown University sleep researcher Dr. Judith Owens, the study’s lead author and a pediatrician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I.

An Archives editorial said the study adds to “a growing body of evidence that changing the start time for high schools is good for adolescents….”

Overall, 201 high school students completed sleep habit surveys before and after the nine-week experiment last year. The results were so impressive that the school made the change permanent, Moss said.

Starting times were shifted from 8 to 8:30. All class times were cut 5 to 10 minutes to avoid a longer school day that would interfere with after-school activities. Moss said improvements in student alertness made up for that lost instruction time. [Emphasis Added]

Finley Edwards has written an interesting Education Next article, Do Schools Begin Too Early?

Proponents of later start times, who have received considerable media attention in recent years, argue that many students who have to wake up early for school do not get enough sleep and that beginning the school day at a later time would boost their achievement. A number of school districts have responded by delaying the start of their school day, and a 2005 congressional resolution introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recommended that secondary schools nationwide start at 9:00 or later. Despite this attention, there is little rigorous evidence directly linking school start times and academic performance.

In this study, I use data from Wake County, North Carolina, to examine how start times affect the performance of middle school students on standardized tests. I find that delaying school start times by one hour, from roughly 7:30 to 8:30, increases standardized test scores by at least 2 percentile points in math and 1 percentile point in reading. The effect is largest for students with below-average test scores, suggesting that later start times would narrow gaps in student achievement.

The primary rationale given for start times affecting academic performance is biological. Numerous studies, including those published by Elizabeth Baroni and her colleagues in 2004 and by Fred Danner and Barbara Phillips in 2008, have found that earlier start times may result in fewer hours of sleep, as students may not fully compensate for earlier rising times with earlier bedtimes. Activities such as sports and work, along with family and social schedules, may make it difficult for students to adjust the time they go to bed. In addition, the onset of puberty brings two factors that can make this adjustment particularly difficult for adolescents: an increase in the amount of sleep needed and a change in the natural timing of the sleep cycle. Hormonal changes, in particular, the secretion of melatonin, shift the natural circadian rhythm of adolescents, making it increasingly difficult for them to fall asleep early in the evening. Lack of sleep, in turn, can interfere with learning. A 1996 survey of research studies found substantial evidence that less sleep is associated with a decrease in cognitive performance, both in laboratory settings and through self-reported sleep habits. Researchers have likewise reported a negative correlation between self-reported hours of sleep and school grades among both middle- and high-school students.

I find evidence consistent with this explanation: among middle school students, the impact of start times is greater for older students (who are more likely to have entered adolescence). However, I also find evidence of other potential mechanisms; later start times are associated with reduced television viewing, increased time spent on homework, and fewer absences. Regardless of the precise mechanism at work, my results from Wake County suggest that later start times have the potential to be a more cost-effective method of increasing student achievement than other common educational interventions such as reducing class size.                                                                                            

The reason for the start times for school start times is often because of the bus schedules and other transportation issues. There really shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach, but as the education units get bigger, there tends to be a one size approach, because large entities can’t deal with complexity. That is why many prefer charters and increasingly for high schools, small schools within schools.


Albert Einstein School of Medicine study: Abnormal breathing during sleep can lead to behavior problems in children                                                            

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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