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NZ Researchers Are Suggesting To Start Schools At Late Hours, Studies Globally Are Finding Adolescents Sleep-Deprived

Studies are suggesting that most adolescents are biologically programmed to fall asleep around 11 pm and wake up at 8 am or later.

Researchers have pointed out that adolescents' natural sleep-wake cycle shifts to later bedtimes which means they might need to get up late

Written by Kashish Sharma |Published : January 20, 2023 8:41 PM IST

Researchers in New Zealand are discussing the need to start school at late hours. Studies are suggesting that this will allow teenagers to sleep well. An opinion piece advocating the thought was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal published on Friday. As per researchers, many students in the country are getting up earlier than they are programmed to and this is happening due to early school hours. Similar studies have been done in various parts of the world showing that adolescents unlike young children have altered circadian alerting systems that might prompt them to sleep late and get up late.

Researchers have pointed out that adolescents' natural sleep-wake cycle shifts to later bedtimes which means they might need to get up late. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not getting enough sleep is becoming a common problem among adolescents and this might be associated with health risks like being overweight, drinking alcohol, taking drugs and poor academic results.

As per the American Academy of Paediatrics, the recommended time for middle and high school students to start their classes must be 8:30 am or later. This will ensure that the children are not sleep-deprived.

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What is the science saying about adolescent sleep?

Many teens in New Zealand do not get enough sleep, it might be because the schools are starting at early hours, forcing them to wake earlier than they are programmed to, the article said, authored by researchers from the University of Otago, Massey University and other academies.

New Zealand researchers have come up with 9:45 am as the appropriate time for senior secondary school students to start their classes. They have called it "an attractive, non-stigmatising approach to address adolescent sleep issues."

As per experts, all adolescents experience a natural shift in circadian rhythms with age and with the onset of puberty. Studies are suggesting that most adolescents are biologically programmed to fall asleep around 11 pm and wake up at 8 am or later.

Some American studies have shown that delaying school by a few hours resulted in a boost in students' attendance, alertness, and grades and a dramatic drop in vehicular accidents. If the current system continues, it could mean that children are being taught at the cost of sleep. This might seem small but sleep deprivation can affect their health in dramatic ways. As per experts, many children might be pathologically sleepy and might be learning in a period of lowest alertness.

Naysayers

Studies have shown that the biggest obstacle to this change is that not many people take sleep deprivation as a public health issue. Also, many parents might be concerned about their children skipping extra-curricular activities. There might be other practical limitations preventing the change that many schools have a common transport system for younger and older children. This might become an obstacle. As per some experts, schools operate in society and function as complex systems and these findings won't be enough to bring about the change. There is a need of solutions to apply the change in a practical way.

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