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.




here is where it is valuabl... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 12:04 PM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

here is where it is valuable to habitually look at standard deviations. std devs of one minute in sleep time and wake time. i don't think the military gets that uniform.

there will be no variance ion grades, because there probably is very little already. so, outcomes such as "alertness" are used.

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Oh yay, you're back!... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 12:42 PM | Posted by rox: | Reply

Oh yay, you're back!

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I think a lot of my health ... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 1:10 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think a lot of my health and mental problems during school could have been avoided if school started at 9 am instead of 8 am. I really honestly do. My body is not meant for the early morning. Now that I am an adult this is easily resolved - I have a job where I do shift work, and I can sleep as much as i want (which incidentally isn't all that much as compared to when I was a teenager).

Adhd and stupid kids are obvious targets for the effect of sleep deprivation, but what about the increase of bipolar and faux bipolar disorders? These illnesses have an innate link to the circadian rhythms I can't help but wonder if fucked up sleep patterns may hav ea role in triggering it all.

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I am a professor of school ... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 2:28 PM | Posted by K2: | Reply

I am a professor of school psychology (meaning 90% of my job is to teach diagnostics). I cannot describe how strongly I agree with these statements about sleep. I constantly say that voluntary lack of sleep is not a DSM-IV condition. It is not a learning disability/ disorder nor is it ADHD (or anxiety). Yet, as a profession, school psychologists don't routinely ask about sleep patterns before we slap a label on a kid. Why? Because sleep is something that happens at home and we are SCHOOL personnel.

And, it should be noted that many (if not most) children receive their first diagnosis from those in my field.

I love reading and recommending work by individuals who think and analyze information before buying into whatever the journal article author is selling. I enjoy what you write, and I recommend it to my students.

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School-aged kids aren't rat... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 3:49 PM | Posted by Adam: | Reply

School-aged kids aren't rational about their sleep cycles. They'll stay up late knowing that they'll be brain-dead tired the next day. However, they usually set a mental limit on how late they'll stay up, e.g. no later than 2 a.m. These mental limits are based on TV schedules (nothing good is on after Adult Swim) or what time their friends go to sleep and log out of Facebook chat.

Pushing back the starting time of school doesn't change these mental limits, so it makes sense they'll go to bed at the same time.

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Advanced 18 minutes isn't a... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 4:13 PM | Posted by Matt: | Reply

Advanced 18 minutes isn't a typo; advanced means it's earlier in the day. (At least, that's how I read it.)

I strongly agree that school should start later and that sleep matters a lot (I get 9 hours a day). It's sort of shameful how well-known these results have been but how slow schools are to move later in the day.

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Alone's response:</p... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 4:53 PM | Posted, in reply to Matt's comment, by Alone: | Reply

Alone's response:

You know, now that I read it again, you are right. There's my own bias getting in my way. Without the term "phase" I assumed "advanced" was its colloquial meaning (forward) but of course this being a journal they meant it rigorously. Thanks for the tip.

To the point about sleeping 9 hours, I'd love to see good research on my initial question, does sleep phase matter as much/more/less than total sleep time?

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This is so true.Kn... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 7:05 PM | Posted by Jennifer: | Reply

This is so true.

Knowing that I have to wake up early seems to be what screws me up. I wake up many times between 5:30 and 7 a.m. (I don't need to get up until 7) to check the alarm because I know I have to get up early. While camping this weekend, I went to bed around the same times as usual (between 11-12), woke up at 7:45, and man, it made such a difference, even if I was sleeping in a large radioactive glowing tent due to the 5:30 sunrise.

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No adam, I disagree.<... (Below threshold)

July 6, 2010 10:50 PM | Posted, in reply to Adam's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

No adam, I disagree.

I am a natural night owl, and for me, a big reason I had so many problems with health and well being and school performance as a child is 100% a function of the fact that school starts IRRATIONALLY early. If only they allowed me to get an hour or more of sleep, it would have made a tremendous difference. I didn't stay up all night watching TV, this was the late 80s/early 90s and back then kids were a bit LESS spoiled... we didn't have private TVs in our room , no computers, no cell phones. The only TV was in the living room in our house and my mother wouldn't have let me watch it after 10pm.

It's shown teenagers need MORE sleep than adults and they sleep LATER than adults.

School times are irrational and the sort of schedule suitable only for farmers who live by the sun or old people who only need 6 or 7 hrs a night because being so old they require less sleep due to reduced metabolism/growth.

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School starting times are n... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 1:19 AM | Posted by EH: | Reply

School starting times are not irrational if you understand that they aren't tied to learning, they're geared toward the 9-5 workday.

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I'm a medical student (As y... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 2:45 AM | Posted by JadedMDstudent: | Reply

I'm a medical student (As you can tell). While I expected MD school to be hell it was better than undergraduate as I didn't chase after undergraduates... just occasionally hooked up with a MILF or two. I went to bed at pretty much the same time every day, and when I needed to kick ass on an exam five days in advance I would bump up my workout routine so I slept despite the stress. I would hit the books for 12 hours at a go the week before the week before enabling me to sleep alot the week before and make sure to spend time at my advisor's office to feast on drug rep lunches. I was well feed, and spent 8 hours max (I don't ever go to lecture so it was not that much time, just 8AM to 5PM with an hour to read the paper or take a nap and a s***). Mean while my classmates where deleteriously tired, couldn't see straight and couldn't think (except for the 25% on Provigil or 'ADD treatments'...they were just more buzzed then I have ever want to be). Eventually they would hate life and discover student psych services and Xanax or Zoloft. Or Natural Ice (yours truly prefers fountains of gin, not rum as gin doesn't give much a headache the day after).

This is why Interns and Residents are considered morons in part (or to quote a friend whose a nurse "Residents are really smart for the first week after vacation. After that they are zombies that I have to baby sit").

Oh by the way. If you get sick in the next month, I recommend a private hospital not affiliated with anything teaching. Or that you have your will in order.

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I approve of the above post... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 5:02 AM | Posted by rambling anon: | Reply

I approve of the above post.

JadedMDstudent is like a young TLP. That is awesome in my book.

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Alone, Please, ple... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 11:43 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply


Please, please write a post on the spectacle of The Bachelor and his "winner." Their relationship, such as it was, has publicly disintegrated, and the network has just paid to have them hold an ugly couples' fight (straight out of a counseling session) on national television during which he appears controlling and borderline sociopathic while she cries hysterically, interrupts him, and talks about his (many) reasons for refusing to have sex with her. He objects to her "undermining" him by doing things like questioning whether he is lost and trying to use the GPS (which he threw out the window). He accuses her of being a 'famewhore,' yet has given up his job as a commercial airline pilot to work on celebrity. An anonymous commenter said, "I've met guys like this. If they have a bad hair day they don't want to have sex with you."

Between the couple, the network, and the viewing public, it's like nested Russian dolls of narcissism.

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Writing about The Bachelor ... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 11:55 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Writing about The Bachelor would be like shooting fish in a barrel - isn't it more useful for Alone to write about things that aren't such obvious examples of narcissism that everyone can see it. What's perhaps more interesting is the narcissism that's in play when watching these types of "reality" shows (the feeling of superiority even though what one is watching is a construct and not reality, it's a bit like feeling superior to a cartoon character!)

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Re: JadedMDstudent is li... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 12:00 PM | Posted by hermitian operator: | Reply

Re: JadedMDstudent is like a young TLP. That is awesome in my book

I dunno, the guy comes off as just another nascent dickhead doctor with a probable personality disorder.

Do we need more of those?

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I would point out that is e... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 1:05 PM | Posted, in reply to hermitian operator's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I would point out that is exactly the way TLP comes across.


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At least TLP has some ego-d... (Below threshold)

July 7, 2010 1:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by hermitian operator: | Reply

At least TLP has some ego-dystonia going for him.

JadedMDstudent has socially retarded, yet ego-syntonic physician written all over him.

He'll fit right in...

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If they are geared toward t... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 2:44 AM | Posted, in reply to EH's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

If they are geared toward the 9-5 workday, why in the hell did school start at 8am? I would have loved coming to school at 9am.

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What 9-5 workday? I don't k... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 11:43 AM | Posted by Jennifer: | Reply

What 9-5 workday? I don't know anyone who's EVER worked 9-5. I've had to be in school from 8-3, in college I had school from 8:30-5:30, and now the workday is 8-5. Dammit.

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The nature of these posts s... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 3:09 PM | Posted by Andrew T Ator: | Reply

The nature of these posts seems to be denigrating to a pornography of the violence in the world which you all deem worthy of mocking. For shame, all of you. This world is a fine thing, and probably worth fighting for if only to prove to the children you have all raised that you're right, the children are wrong, and parents know best because, hey, y'all've been around longer than the young'uns have.

Work tied into the nature of circadian rythms? The integration of gravitational forces as they affect the electrical synapses in our brainwaves? What crack are you people smoking? Where can I get some? Is the art of meditation lost on educational institutions or are they all so schizophrenic that the paranoia of choosing one path of "enlightenment" over another leaves them in a political battle the likes of which the Spanish Inquisition would smile in approval of?

"Oh no the barbarians are coming!"

If a barbarian is coming is he A) ejaculating upon the land, filling the soil with nutrients B) planning a war C) ending a war D) sharting at full speed to lead the barbarians chasing him into a war with a tribe that would effectively distract both from the running barbarian.

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i think that it is a good t... (Below threshold)

September 27, 2010 8:48 AM | Posted by imani: | Reply

i think that it is a good thing to have imformation on stuff that will help you with everyday life.

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Some time before, I needed ... (Below threshold)

June 15, 2011 5:35 PM | Posted by SextonRuth18: | Reply

Some time before, I needed to buy a house for my business but I didn't have enough cash and could not order something. Thank heaven my sister adviced to take the home loans at creditors. Thus, I did that and used to be satisfied with my college loan.

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School should start no earl... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2011 12:58 PM | Posted by Amy Lynn Swiatczak: | Reply

School should start no earlier than 9am.

When I was a kid, I had to wake up and get to my bus stop in total darkness. Not only is that not safe, it felt wrong to be up at 5:30am! It made me crabby, irritable, shortened my attention span and the mere aspect of waking up to an alarm clock meant that I wasn't hungry for breakfast (because I was half asleep since I couldn't wake up in my own time). So therefore I ended up starving by 9am. And what do you really learn when you're dog tired and hungry? Not a lick.

I also think we should take the summer, spring and winter breaks and divide them up equally so that kids go to school for 4 weeks, then get a week off, then repeat. I think that would be a more effective strategy than an extended stretch (summer break) where kids often forget skills (math) that they learned just prior to such a long break.

This topic is one of several reasons I am going to give my children the OPTION to be home schooled. Had I been offered that option as a kid, I probably would have made the switch at about 6th grade, when waking early really started having negative effects.

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no way in hell screw you gu... (Below threshold)

February 10, 2012 4:06 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

no way in hell screw you guys

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All in all, school shouldn`... (Below threshold)

May 9, 2012 11:54 AM | Posted by masters in public health programs: | Reply

All in all, school shouldn`t start earlier as a general condition in the public educational system. There are indeed highly talented children that manifest their needs for knowledge and development, but they represent a small percentage of all school starters. Plus, not all the parents understand this and not all of them agree for their children not to properly enjoy their pre-school years. This should be a matter of choice, not to mention a task for non-formal educational institutions.

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I once read this book, "Sky... (Below threshold)

May 9, 2012 12:14 PM | Posted by gregory: | Reply

I once read this book, "Sky`s the limit". I then understood that not all children can learn the same, achieve performances all the same and subscribe to a set of rules of a public educational system all the same. So every parent should have this intuition of what`s best for his child and guide him on to the right development path. I have always wanted to enlist some masters in public health programs, but the occasion has only risen this year, so I`m not having second thoughts this time.

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Night school and having </p... (Below threshold)

February 4, 2013 8:20 PM | Posted by 9:30-11:00 is ideal: | Reply

Night school and having

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I taught high school for mo... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2014 11:22 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I taught high school for more than 35 years. Students must learn to adapt and prepare for the real world. Do you think a company will open their business later because lazy people won't get up early? Students, to be successful, need to get up earlier - not later. The world has gone mad and it's too bad - so sad!

Another factor is ending later. In the winter it gets dark earlier. I don't think parents want their kids in danger coming home when it's dark. This can create many more unexpected problems.

Anyone ever heard the old saying "Early to bed early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise"? Let's get real here. Schools should continue what they've been doing for over a 100 years - start early and end by 3 PM!

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You fit so many logically u... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2014 11:54 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You fit so many logically unconnected statements in there I have to assume it's some sort of parody comment.

On the other hand, it's very possible that you're simply old and believe anything old must be of value. SO HARD TO TELL

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go to bed grandpa... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2014 2:31 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

go to bed grandpa

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I knew my post would bring ... (Below threshold)

August 25, 2014 8:50 PM | Posted by Any1: | Reply

I knew my post would bring out the spoiled brats. If my arguments, which are completely true, are illogical then prove it. Back up your statements with intelligent discussion if you can. If you can't be sure to stay in school and arrive on time!

Losers will always attack the truth.

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Schools are unnecessarily g... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2014 11:22 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Schools are unnecessarily giving in to students demands. My kids use a calculator to do math. That’s why they have trouble. I used to do more math than they can do (without a calculator) when I was several years younger than they are (around 5th grade). Today kids are being spoiled by a degraded system that no longer works. We should just go back to teaching kids at their level without unneeded props. By the way, I refuse to spend hundreds of dollars on school supplies. With pencils, pens and paper my kids have all they need to learn!

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THANK YOU... I've ended a l... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2014 2:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Brrangdang: | Reply

THANK YOU... I've ended a lot of arguments by just saying, "That's the way we've ALWAYS done it!" People come at me with all sorts of nonsense trying to change the status quo, and that one simple line confounds these iconoclasts every time. Let's see these idiots try to come up with a response to THAT one!

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Eh, well, the darkness one ... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2014 2:17 PM | Posted, in reply to Any1's comment, by Tel: | Reply

Eh, well, the darkness one only makes sense if you live in a fairly specific band around the world. In my country it is perfectly normal to walk to school in the dark, and to walk home in twilight or darkness. Its basically unavoidable when the sun rises at about 9 am and sets at around 4 pm.

Getting up early doesn't really give any benefit in real life after school either. I could certainly get up at 5:30 to get ready for my day, but its not like the extra time would prepare me any more, and showing up to work early won't help me either. Realistically, if I wanted to be more productive and to win more respect at work I would be better suited by sleeping in, showing up late - but still before my boss - and working later into the night. Same hours, but I would get more done in that time and appear to be working longer to the casual observer.

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You don't say what area you... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2014 3:06 PM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

You don't say what area you're from. In most areas of the US darkness brings out criminals, fear and confusion (especially with small children). I don't think starting at 8 AM and finishing by 3 PM is unreasonable. That's the way it's always been done ever since schools have functioned. Things only started changing when idiots known as the Department Of Education and the DOE (Dopes Of Education) took over! That's when common sense flew out the window.

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The darkness issue will be ... (Below threshold)

August 28, 2014 6:19 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by Tel: | Reply

The darkness issue will be true for any countries with a latitude greater than about 45, maybe 50 - eyeballing off of a map. Which would be northern US, Canada, most of Europe, all but a bit of Russia, and a few other countries.

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