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Newsflash: “Teenagers aren’t morning people” Sunday, 23 October 2005

Posted by R Garfield in Views On News.

There’s actually a movement out there to let students sleep in and start their school day – and classes – later. The basis for this is apparently the fact that – here’s a news flash for you – ‘teenagers aren’t morning people.’

I’m having a hard time determining if the online article from Augusta, Maine is a news article, op-ed, or letter to the editor. I’m leaning toward op-ed. If it is a news article, it’s not well written by journalistic standards (even if those standards have been taking a beating lately).

For instance, the author states There is physiological, psychological and sociological proof … that teenagers tend not to be morning people. Research shows that the shift in sleep patterns during adolescence impairs academic performance, especially if teens are required to wake early for classes.

However, the only study actually referenced here is this one:

One study of 60 high school seniors in advanced-placement biology kept a log of their sleep prior to the start of the school year and then during the year. Compared to their sleep patterns during the summer, students typically lost as much as two hours of sleep a night on weekdays during the school year.

My two reactions to this article are ‘duh’ and ‘so what?’

“Duh, kids hate mornings. What’s the news?”

The “so what” is for the research and studies, particularly the sleep log study. Shifting sleep patterns disrupt anyone’s performance at their tasks. It’s not a phenomenon reserved for teenagers. It’s part of the reason that late shift workers (usually) get paid more money than day shifters.

My biggest problem with the sleep study, however, is the fact that there’s no relationship given between the lost sleep and the overall use of time. What are they doing that accounts for the lost two hours? Could the two hours come from the social part of their schedule, like say, late night movies, time spent cruising with friends, that they don’t want to give up? If so, then this is a time mangement problem, and not a ‘shifting sleep pattern’ problem.

I agree that 7:15 seems a little early to actually be in school, and I suspect that time is meant for the peace of mind of parents working 8 to 5 or 9 to 5 shifts. “I don’t know who my kid sits behind in homeroom, but I know he’s at school.” But I’m not sure that 45 minutes is enough of a difference to be worthy of nonprofit groups (501(c) number, please?) and a slate of advocates.

A simpler solution would be: don’t shift the sleep patterns. Maintain the school schedule year round. So you don’t get to sleep in late … if you’re getting in the sleep you need, you won’t have shift-scarring to worry about when school starts again.

My verdict for now: This about the silliest thing I’ve heard of since the honor roll student parents who thought that having their kids names published as acheiving honors would horribly scar the kids that didn’t make the list.

If you want my support, don’t say ‘There are studies’ or point me to news ‘articles’ that cite unsupported allegations of studies. Show me the study.

Hat Tip: School Start Times Blog




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