a bored boy with ADHD, risk of ADHD

Teenagers are notoriously hard to rouse in the morning. Most schools are not very sympathetic to adolescent biorhythms, however. A new study from Rhode Island suggests that strict adherence to a traditional early-morning schedule is counterproductive. St. George’s School, a boarding school, pushed class start times back half an hour during the spring 2009 semester. The head of the school had promised skeptical faculty that they would return to an 8 am start time if the experiment didn’t pan out. But the results were dramatic.

Students were more likely to get to breakfast and less likely to fall asleep in class. Fewer were late to class, and most students reported being more motivated. The study was not long enough to judge changes in academic performance, but it does suggest that minor changes to make school schedules more teen friendly could have measurable benefits.

[Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, July, 2010]

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  1. DM

    I am a teenager and i struggle with waking up a lot. Sometimes i dont even sleep. And its really hard to start my homeschooling early. I always want to take a nap around 2 pm. When i was in public school i always fell asleep in my first class! Ended up sleeping halfway through my second. I couldnt pay attention. But now with school later I am still tired but, it helps a bit =)

  2. DrDM

    More stupid school tricks set up for the convenience of adults, not the welfare of the children!! One major reason I home-school my son (now 14) is his biorhythms have always been on what we jokingly call “California Time” (we live in NC). When he was in elementary school, every morning was a struggle for either of us to get there by 7:50. (usually didn’t) Now his sleep shift is even worse than the average teen. A half an hour? Ha! Recently our local high school advanced starting time by an hour, but that was actually due to school bus conflicts, not sudden enlightenment.
    Despite a reasonable bedtime, my son might wake up a couple times or have a totally sleepless night. (I promise there’s no caffeine, no diet drinks or sodas, no junk food, no TV or electronics in his room, etc) I understand his sleep cycle; it’s an inherited disorder. I simply don’t feel awake until about 9; I’ve struggled with getting anywhere before 10 am my entire life.
    Now I’ve had to “retire” because of physical problems, I’ve adjusted both our schedules. We both take meds to help us get to sleep at more normal hours & improve our sleep architecture; they help. I can get up at 8:30 and muddle through my morning routine, then get him up 9-9:30.
    Home-schooling has allowed us both to be our best more of the day. I notice neither of us suffer that so-called 2-3 pm droop; comes in handy while we’re out hunting treasures in thrift & antique stores. (one of his favorite activities besides buying even more books). Because he’s an extremely self-motivated learner, he thrives in our unstructured eclectic “Mommy school”. We pack plenty into the day; there’s no reason to stay up late to finish homework or projects.
    One thing the report didn’t mention – children & teens grow during sleep & their brains process information from the day. Too little sleep is depriving our children not only of the opportunity to be their best during the day, but also robbing them of both physical & mental growth. I’m not sure if that’s why my son is already 5’9″, but the extra sleep has been a gift for us both.

  3. YMT

    As a high school teacher, this is a fascinating study. I certainly agree that high school should start later, and students and teachers will both benefit! I see sleep deprived students (and teachers!) every day, hungry (no breakfast). I’m sure it was a relief to those kids to have 30 minutes extra – although I wonder if an hour would be better??

  4. Joe M.

    Interesting. But maybe these researchers should read book “The Outliers”, especially the last chapter!

  5. ellen

    This is what I’ve been saying for years! I still have three teenagers at home and they function so much better after 10:00 in the morning than they do at 8:00. Mississippi is one of the lowest school systems academically and I believe that having to be in your seat at 7:40am is a contributing factor!
    I also believe that taking all of August away from these children has been detrimental to their creativity, mental health and education. Children need those long summer days to explore the world around them and figure out who they are. In Mississippi we have been starting school the second week of August instead of after Labor Day but, they have not changed the rule that you have to be five by Sept. 1st to Aug. 1st which of course means we have children beginning kindergarten at age four instead of age five.
    And they wonder why grades are so low!!! Can’t somebody please change the laws to make them kid friendly?

  6. JBW

    As a college professor who certainly sometimes teaches 8 a.m. classes with sleepy students, and remembering my own droopy eyes at that time of morning when I was a student, I am wondering if the research clarifies at what age the need for a slightly later class time is no longer helpful. I would guess when the hormones have stabilized and “adulthood” has been reached but when does that actually occur on average. I would be interested in anyone’ knowledge on research on traditional college aged students.

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