Academic success plays a significant role in dictating the pathway that students will follow later in life. Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night allows students to have a greater level of academic success, ability to focus in school, retain information more efficiently, and live healthier lives.
Adolescents should average 8-10 hours of sleep each night, and students who do not get adequate amounts of sleep are more likely to suffer from depression and defiant behavior, truancy, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.
In an increasingly competitive academic setting, students with healthy sleeping habits will achieve higher SAT and ACT scores. Supporting healthy sleep creates an environment for students to become more productive and successful in their studies and extracurricular activities.
To address the issue of sleep deprivation and promote academic success, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that it is beneficial to begin school at 8:30 a.m. or later. School start times later than 8:30 a.m. would lead to well-rested students who are able to efficiently work and complete their homework immediately after school, rather than needing a nap before they can begin assignments.
The recommended hours of sleep for children and teenagers varies with increased age, but it is broadly beneficial to all age groups to maintain a stable schedule of bedtime and rise time, including on weekends. Early school start times, in addition to the commute time that students must prepare for, negatively impacts adolescent health by interrupting their Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
The loss of the REM sleep stage directly corresponds to impaired memory consolidation and slower tissue repair, which can lead to physical and mental ailments. Without sufficient REM sleep, students are more likely to suffer from loss of focus, daytime sleepiness, and agitation. They are more susceptible to risk-taking behavior during driving while extremely tired.
Everyone can play an important role in helping our children to achieve better sleep, improve academic performance and enhance their quality of life. Adjusting the start time of Kentucky’s schools would allow students to have an additional 30 minutes – 1 hour of sleep, increasing the time for bodily repair.
Health care professionals need to educate their patients and parents about sleep health. Parents need to enforce regular bedtime and rise time and implement “media curfew” one hour before bedtime.
These simple adjustments of sleep hygiene would parallel to a decrease in adolescent sickness and depression. Together we can help our children and adolescents in Kentucky to have better health as well as an improvement in classroom and academic performance.
Dr. Daniel Lee, a neurologist with Baptist Health Medical Group Neurology in Richmond, is president of Kentucky Sleep Society, an organization of Kentucky medical professionals dedicated to educating the public, healthcare professionals and community leaders in the importance of sleep and related disorders.