Monday, September 08, 2014

Should schools delay their schedules because students stay up too late?

John Rosemond
If you pay attention to school news, you know that a number of schools are now delaying the school schedule for some of the upper grades on the grounds that many teenagers don't get enough sleep.

Well, I was going to say it, but here comes columnist John Rosemond to point out the obvious:
The problem, it seems to me, is not when the school day begins. The problem is teens whose parents let them stay up until all hours of the night playing video games, texting, talking on their cell phones, watching television, surfing the 'net, and listening to music on headphones.
Now, you're thinking, why won't parents do anything about this (which they should do for reasons other than school anyway)?
And there's the rub of course. I refer to parents who will not set limits of any meaningful sort on their children's use of electronics because, get this, it will upset them.
And we must not, in American have upset children.
Thus it is in America, under what Joseph Epstein has called the "Kindergarchy": the regime under which children rule over their compliant parents.

And once they change the school schedule to try to accommodate the poor potentially upset things?
Let me assure the reader that if a school decides to push its start time from 8:00 to 9:00, the teens who attend said school will simply use that as an excuse to stay up playing, texting, talking, watching, surfing, and listening for another hour.
Of course, don't count on the school system to have the intelligence to take this into account.


KyCobb said...

Martin, there is evidence that sleep patterns change over people's lifetimes, perhaps due to hormone changes. That isn't a discipline problem.

Martin Cothran said...

What does the evidence say?

KyCobb said...

most adolescents undergo a sleep phase delay, which means a tendency toward later times for both falling asleep and waking up. Research shows the typical adolescent’s natural time to fall asleep may be 11 pm or later; because of this change in their internal clocks, teens may feel wide awake at bedtime, even when they are exhausted (Wolfson & Carskadon, 1998).

Dr. Paula Flint said...

The change in a teen's circadian rhythm is absolutely true. We start school at 9:30 am. We expect teens to get a good night's sleep, eat breakfast, not feel hysterical trying to get to school, and be ready to learn at 9:30 am. We have not found (as this article suggests) that teens will take advantage of this and just stay up all night and want to come in to school even later than 9:30 am. Our teens have thanked us for our scheduling consideration. We have no sleepy heads in first period. It works wonderfully.

Martin Cothran said...

So do teens on Eastern Standard Time have a harder time going to sleep at, say 10:00 p.m. than teens on Pacific Standard Time going to sleep at the same time there?

Martin Cothran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Cothran said...

And by they way, if your all's position was correct, what would that say about forced busing policies that required children to wake up at extremely early hours of the morning, sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m., in order to satisfy the demands of social engineers?

Singring said...

The conservative mindset on full, glorious display again...

First, we have John Rosemond - 'The Parent Guru' - writing his piece without giving any references as to what research he is citing. Why would he prevent his readers easy access to the research he then proceeds to attack? Lacking the exact reference, it is hard to tell, but maybe we can find out...

Here is a link to a recent study that I suspect he is refererring to:

Now I don't have access to the full paper, but just the freely available abstract gives us some of the findings. I quote:

"Most high schools in the United States begin the school day by 8 AM or earlier, [...] This means that high school students generally arise between 5:45 AM and 6:30 AM to get dressed and get to school. These data provide an interesting contrast when one views what research on the sleep patterns of adolescents has revealed, namely that their biological preference for falling asleep is approximately 11 PM with their natural wake time at about 8 AM."

(Emphasis mine). So already we see that their rising time is dictated at least in part by their biology - not their upbringing or evening activities, as Rosemond slanders both parents and teens.

But what of Rosemond's bold assertion on the consequences of delaying school time:

'Let me assure the reader that if a school decides to push its start time from 8:00 to 9:00, the teens who attend said school will simply use that as an excuse to stay up playing, texting, talking, watching, surfing, and listening for another hour.'

See, he even 'assures us' that this is what will happen.

I found this article on that summarizes some of the findings of the paper in question (link: Again I quote:

"As in previous studies, students reported greater duration of sleep each night during the study period, but what was unexpected, researchers say, was that students were not only sleeping later in the morning, but also went to bed earlier as well."

Without access to the full paper I can't be sure how strong these data are, but these findings seem to fly in the face of Rosemonds bold assertions.

I am left to conclude that Rosemond is either too illiterate or too innumerate to comprehend the study's findings or that he is too dishonest to represent it honestly. The fact that he omits reference to it in his 'piece' would suggest the latter to me.

I wonder how much the 'Parent Guru' charges parents for his cutting and profound 'assurances' that seem to be pulled wholly from thin air.

But not enough that we have to suffer his ignorance and/or dishonesty, here we have Martin uncritically parrot his claims, obviously not making the slightest effort to check their veracity (why would he if he's already ideologically committed?). Worse than that, when presented with actual literature countering this nonsense, he ignores it, doesn;t engage with it and instead resorts to the time-honoured tactics of changing the subject.

Next time you moan and whine about not being given credence by school boards and education policy makers, Martin, take a minute to think about why that is.
Maybe it has something to do with you and your conservative colleagues eschewing evidence and empirical data for your gut feeling, intuition and ideological dogma.

Anonymous said...

Gee, what time do working parents have to get up?

Martin Cothran said...

I find this whole idea that people (teenagers or anyone else) have a "biological preference" for going to sleep at a certain time very suspicious. I'll leave the exact scientific quality of these studies being quoted for later, but so far no one has answered a much more obvious question I have asked here and several other places. I'll restate it:

The claim is that research has found that teenagers have a "biological preference" of going to bed [I'm going to assume Singring's figure, since he's a scientist] at 11:00 p.m. The question is, 11:00 p.m. of what time zone? Greenwich Mean Time? Eastern Standard? Pacific Standard? Central European Time? Irish Standard Time? Kuybyshev Time? Kyrgyzstan Time? Azores Summer Time?

I'm interested about exactly how "biological" this sleep time preference is.

Anonymous said...

Leave school times alone and let the parents make their kids go to sleep. Don't let them sleep all day on the weekends and stay up all night. Regular sleep patterns work if they are kept up, even for teens. I knew what I was doing when I was a teen I just plain didn't want to go to sleep or go to school. I wanted to stay up.

Singring said...

The ' inner clock' of organisms, including animals and plants, is regulated by a combination of internal feedback loops involving hormones and the brain and external stimuli that help calibrate this clock. Scientists working in this field of research call it ' circadian rhythm'. One of the most important factor is day length- when the sun rises and when it sets, because our senses can perceive light and therefore use this as a handy calibration device. It is quite easy to get the calibration out of whack - think of the feeling when you have jet lag, it's your body trying to reconcile its inner timekeeping with the port stimuli.

In short, our inner clocks are not set according to some absolute null point, which would indeed mean that everyone would go to sleep at the same time regardless of time zone. Instead, depending on when the sun rises and sets in your time zone, along with some other contributing factors, adjusts your inner clock, so you will tend to fall asleep at around the same period of the day within each time zone.

I hope that answers your question. If it doesn't, look up ' circadian rhythm' on the web. It's quite an interesting field of research.