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Starting school later can improve teens' academic performance, study finds 

Getting up early for school should be the bane of every teen’s life.

Now, a new study suggests that starting the school day later and letting them sleep in may improve their mood, which in turn may affect academic performance.

Researchers have pushed back the start time of a school in Brazil by an hour and tracked students’ sleep, sleepiness and emotional health.

Overall, the adolescents reported feeling less depressed, angry, tense and fatigued at school, the academics found.

The new results argue in favor of postponing school start times in the UK – something the Department of Education refused to implement three years ago.

This is although previous studies have already shown a link between sleep deprivation and poor emotional health in adolescents.

Teens like to sleep in and a new study shows a little more sleep can improve their performance at school (file photo)

Teens like to sleep in and a new study shows a little more sleep can improve their performance at school (file photo)

The new study was led by a team of Brazilian experts, led by academics from the Federal University of Latin American Integration (UNILA) in Foz do Iguaçu and the Federal University of Fronteira Sul, Realeza.

“Later start time at school is effective in extending sleep duration, improving sleepiness and mood profile,” they say in their paper, published in the journal Sleep Health.

SCHOOL START TIMES IN UK

In the UK, a normal school day starts between 8am and 9am and ends between 3pm and 4pm.

The school hours are determined by each school, but are on average about five to six hours a day.

In 2019, the Ministry of Education said it had no plans to open secondary schools later.

“The government has given all schools the ability to set their own school hours so that all schools have the autonomy to make decisions,” it said.

Source: InterNations

“The findings presented in our study provide additional support for the growing body of evidence about the positive outcomes of delaying school start time.”

The researchers say our circadian rhythm — the 24-hour cycle that’s part of the body’s internal clock — changes significantly during adolescence and can make it difficult for teens to stay awake in the morning.

Before puberty, the body induces sleepiness around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., but when puberty begins, this rhythm shifts to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. a few hours later.

Because the circadian rhythm in many teens naturally encourages the body to stay up later in the evening, the shift makes it harder for them to wake up.

Therefore, changing school start times would be the best strategy to address sleep deprivation in adolescents, they argue.

For the study, the team recruited 48 students at a high school in Palotina, Brazil, who were made to wear actigraphs – wrist-worn devices that record sleep and wake cycles – continuously for three weeks.

During ‘Week A’ and ‘Week C’, school started at the regular time – 7.30am – but during ‘Week B’ the school start time was delayed by an hour to 8:30am.

As a result, adolescents had to wake up later in week B (7:42 a.m.) compared to weeks A (6:54 a.m.) and C (6:46 a.m.).

In week B, the school board decided to slightly shorten the breaks and lessons and to extend the school end time by 25 minutes, to take into account the later start.

During 'Week A' and 'Week C', the school started at the regular time - 7.30am, but during 'Week B' the school start time was postponed by an hour to 8.30am

During 'Week A' and 'Week C', the school started at the regular time - 7.30am, but during 'Week B' the school start time was postponed by an hour to 8.30am

During ‘Week A’ and ‘Week C’, the school started at the regular time – 7.30am, but during ‘Week B’ the school start time was postponed by an hour to 8.30am

Over all three weeks, the actigraphs measured the timing and duration of sleep, while the participants also completed surveys about their sleepiness, sleep quality, mood, and levels of anxiety and depression.

The results showed that going to school later in the morning had a positive effect on both sleep and mood.

During week B, the students had lower levels of fatigue, tension, confusion, anger and depression, and more energy.

Interestingly, while going to school later, the participants did not change their bedtime, so they benefited from waking up later and increasing their total sleep time.

Also, after sleeping longer, adolescents reported feeling less sleepy (somnolence or sleepiness) upon arrival and before leaving school.

The researchers acknowledge that delaying school start time “is not an easy solution to implement.”

Students were required to wear ActTrust AT0503 actigraphs - a wrist-worn device that records sleep and wake cycles (file photo)

Students were required to wear ActTrust AT0503 actigraphs - a wrist-worn device that records sleep and wake cycles (file photo)

Students were required to wear ActTrust AT0503 actigraphs – a wrist-worn device that records sleep and wake cycles (file photo)

During week B, the students had less fatigue, tension, confusion, anger and depression, and more energy

During week B, the students had less fatigue, tension, confusion, anger and depression, and more energy

During week B, the students had less fatigue, tension, confusion, anger and depression, and more energy

“We recognize the logistical challenges of implementing a significant delay in school start time, yet efforts must be made to build a more inclusive education system,” they say.

However, better sleep can improve emotional regulation, the study finds, which could lead to improvements in school attendance and performance.

Academics in the US have already shown that forcing teens to wake up before the biological clock tells them to can stunt their academic growth.

A 2011 study of U.S. Air Force 19-year-olds found that those who began classes at 8:50 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. had higher grades on their exams.

In the UK, parliament was forced to debate school start times in 2019, following an online petition signed by more than 179,000 people entitled ‘School must start at 10am because teenagers are too tired’.

However, the Ministry of Education said it does not plan to open secondary schools later.

“The government has given all schools the ability to set their own school hours so that all schools have the autonomy to make decisions,” it said.

“The department has no plans to make secondary schools compulsory in the future. We trust that school principals decide how best to organize their school day to support the education of their students.’

In 2013, UCL Academy secondary school in London decided to shift the start time to 10am so that students could ‘wake up fully’ for class.

However, the school now requires students to arrive by 8:25 a.m. Monday through Friday, the website shows. MailOnline has contacted the school regarding the decision to return tee times to normal.

PRIVATE TRAINING DOESN’T MAKE YOU HAPPIER, STUDY FINDS

Private education doesn’t make people happier in life than going through the state system, 2022 research suggests.

Academics found no difference in well-being between young adults who attended paid schools and those who attended comprehensive schools.

The findings, from University College London (UCL), may disappoint parents who have spent huge amounts on private education.

The best public schools often charge over £40,000 a year and spend a lot of money on pastoral care.

Previous studies have shown that while private education leads to better academic results, it does not protect against mental health problems.

In fact, a previous study of those born in 1970 found that mental health problems increased in women with private education.

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