July 6, 2010

Should School Start Later?

owl.jpgso let me get this straight:  you want me to start eating worms

In Harvard Business Review, Christoph Randler explains his research: a survey of 367 college students on their proactivity.  Hint: the title is, "Proactive people are early risers."

The finding is not simply that they wake themselves and get going; there's a biological involvement.  Early risers were those who got up at the same time on the weekends as on the weekdays, i.e that was what was natural.    Actual amount of sleep didn't matter here.

Other traits, like conscientiousness, were also associated with early rising.  The hook in his research is that early risers don't simply have more time to do work, are not better rested or, drink less alcohol.  Being an early riser is something innate-- he estimates 50% of it is due to genetics.


There is a point-- and I've seen it frequently-- where late night and early morning converge.  

It is my observation, N=1, that I feel more rested if I can get up an hour later than normal than if I actually got more total sleep.


CHICAGO - 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"

Could this be about morning kids vs. night owls?

From the abstract:

Conclusions  A modest delay in school start time was associated with significant improvements in measures of adolescent alertness, mood, and health.

If you were told that school or work would from now on be an hour later, what would you do?  What I'd do is stay up an extra hour (or four) so that total sleep time was the same, just shifted.

The teens didn't do that.

Results  After the start time delay, mean school night sleep duration increased by 45 minutes, and average bedtime advanced by 18 minutes 

Why didn't they stay up later?  Because these were boarding school kids, and lights out was lights out. 

So their improved mood and behavior may be simply due to more sleep, not a later time, per se.


See that "advanced 18 minutes"?  I blew past it without appreciating its technical significance:

sleep times boarding school.JPG
When school start time was moved a half hour later (S2), these idiots didn't stay up longer, they actually went to bed earlier.


So the study shows, basically, that kids do better with more sleep, and if you start school later, they get more sleep.

This doesn't lend anything to Randler's thesis, because when you sleep-- his biological predilection to mornings or evenings-- wasn't really tested.  It was just less vs. more.

The reasons we run the world as morning people are myriad.  I'm sure it started with the stupid sun; older people naturally get up later, and older people set the meetings.  All night owls are expected to adjust their natures.

The effects of this on kids, especially pubescent through mid twenties, ages when the sleep cycle naturally favors later mornings, are not obvious.  But they're pretty suspect. Jocks are supposed to be dumb but how smart can you be if you were up at 5am running laps?   But that's the system we have.  I've rarely met an ADHD kid who sleeps enough, and I've never met an ADHD adult or adolescent who does.  When a kid is sleep deprived, he gets hyper; they are too tired to be inhibited, too tired to exert self-control.  Not for nothing, Ritalin is a stimulant.

Which is why, for me, the real message of the study should have been this:

The daily class schedule is from 8 AM to 3 PM, 4 days per week; 8 AM to 1 PM on Wednesday; and 8 to 11 AM on Saturday. From January 6 to March 6, 2009, the school start time was delayed to 8:30 AM. To avoid extending the length of the school day, academic and nonacademic periods (student life, music programs, etc), assemblies, and afternoon activities (ie, athletics, theater, etc) were reduced by 5 to 10 minutes.
That's how you run a school.