We’ve all turned up to work, or school, knowing that we didn’t get enough sleep the night before. The effects of doing so are clear. We’re less productive, less enthusiastic; less able to effectively complete tasks.
The importance of getting the right amount of sleep is pretty well publicised, and yet it isn’t really an issue that is taken seriously. We tend to laugh off the fact that we only managed four and a half hours’ sleep last night. But, whilst we need to try and address our own sleeping patterns, if the very structure of the school day is affecting the potential ability of our students, is this not a more pressing matter?
If our students are underperforming because we are forcing them to work at times that do not correlate with their bodies’ and minds’ natural cycles, surely we should attempt to readdress this.
According to Paul Kelly, who works for the Sleep and Circulation Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, we are a sleep-deprived society. The majority of people in the 14-24 age group are missing out on more than ten hours sleep each week. This deprivation can cause serious threats to our health, mood, performance, and mental health.
For school children, Kelly recommends school start times to be determined by a student’s age range.
- 8:30 a.m for 10-year-olds
- 10 a.m for 16-year-olds
- 11 a.m for 18-year-olds
These suggestions may sound drastic, but they are centred around scientific research. Adolescent bodies don’t start releasing melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate our body clocks) until nearly 11 p.m., and continue until late morning, making it difficult to wake up early.
Bear in mind that a lack of sleep can affect exam results, a student’s mood, their relationship with their family, and their general health. By changing school start times, schools could potentially influence their students’ exam results, happiness, attendance, and behavioural issues. Sounds like a dream, right? And all we have to do is let our older students sleep a little longer in the mornings. According to Kelly, it’s not just students who are sleep deprived; school staff would also benefit from a later start.
Kelly was previously a headteacher at Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside. They experimented with a 10 a.m. start, which resulted in an increase in top-level grades. He is currently working with Teensleep, which aims to recruit 100 U.K. schools to participate in a trial of different start times.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post; I’m off to ask my boss about starting at 11 a.m tomorrow.