March 21, 2009

Schools Delay Start For Sake Of Sleep

Hugh Christie School in Kent County, Ssouthern England has been starting classes at 11:00 a.m. for nearly two years, for teens between 16 and 18 years old.

The classes run until 5:00 p.m. and the school is considering extending the policy to younger teenagers. 

This school is one of many in Britain that delay classes till midmorning.  In the United States, schools in 19 states have pushed back their start times.  Over 100 school districts in 17 more states are considering delaying their start times.

Many people have been wondering whether they get enough sleep while World Sleep Day came on Friday.  Since the Hugh Christie school began its experiment in 2006, 17-year-old Harrison Killick says he feels much better rested and attentive in class.

"I feel a lot more relaxed and awake when I'm at school," said the teen, sporting a green polo shirt and earring.

Many experts believe that teenagers need more sleep than adults.

"There's a change in hormones in teenagers' brains that requires some rewiring in the brain," said Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Center at Loughborough University. "That rewiring can only be done in deep sleep," he said, explaining that teens may need an hour more sleep than adults.

Experts say that delaying classes for teens until later in the day helps them learn better.  Average grades have improved since classes were shifted later at the Hugh Christie school.

However, Horne worries that schools with later start times might indulge teens.  "It's possible this could be solved with better parental control," Horne said. "Is it really necessary for kids to stay up late every night chatting with their friends and in front of their computers?"