Schools should start later, students should sleep more, study finds

Dubai: School and university students who hate waking up in the morning for class will be happy to know there is a scientific study that backs their dislike of waking up early.

A study by researchers from the University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School and the University of Nevada has found that current school and university start times are damaging the learning and health of students.

The study concluded that students aged 10 should wake up at 8.30am at the earliest, students aged 16 should wake up at 10am and students aged 18 should wake up at 11am or later.

According to the study, implementing these start times, which are synchronised to adolescents’ biology, should protect students from short sleep duration and chronic sleep deprivation, which are linked to poor learning and health problems.

“The impact of early school times on adolescents is not understood by most educators: a common belief is that adolescents are tired, irritable and uncooperative because they choose to stay up too late, or are difficult to wake in the morning because they are lazy,” according to the study whose researchers believe school timings should be synchronised to adolescents’ biology.

The study titled ‘Synchronising education to adolescent biology: let teens sleep, start school later’ by Paul Kelley, Steven W. Lockley, Russell G. Foster and Jonathan Kelley states that the impact of short sleep duration in adolescents includes reduced concentration, poor attention, inability to multitask and mood swings, to name a few.

The study’s findings arise from a deeper understanding of circadian rhythms, better known as the body clock, and the genes associated with regulating this daily cycle every 24 hours.

Student interviewed by Gulf News completely agreed and supported the study’s findings.

“The truth has finally been spoken,” said Bassem Mohammad, who studies at Heriot Watt University in Dubai and believes that courses should not start early.

“I feel I do better in courses that start after 10am, which is why I try to avoid morning classes. I have better concentration during that time. I don’t have to rush to class in the morning and worry about losing marks for being late too,” he said.

Amr Basel, who goes to the International School of Choueifat in Sharjah, also believed schools should not start early and hoped that schools will consider starting late.

“I go by bus so I have to wake up at around 7am to get ready and get to school on time. I wake up really tired and, honestly, it feels like I am getting punished. This is especially horrible during the winter when the sun is not out. Waking up late would also be helpful during the examination period when you stay up all night revising,” he said.

What doctors say

Gulf News also spoke to doctors who, unlike the study, believed that school timings should not be pushed back.

Dr Mohammad Rafique, pulmonologist and sleep disorder specialist at Prime Hospital, said students should just make sure they get enough sleep and go to bed earlier as it is not practical for schools to start later.

“You set your own biological clock. If you sleep early and wake up early, your body will get used to doing so. If the school pushes back its timings then students are just going to wake up later, it will not make a difference,” he said.

Dr Rafique said people below the age of 10 should sleep for 10 hours while seven hours is enough for those who are older than 10.

Dr Usha Khatri, Head of Medical Services at Dr Batra’s Homeopathic Clinic, also disagreed with the study’s findings saying that the morning time is the best time for children to learn.

“The morning hours are the best time for learning, it is the time when children’s mental capabilities are most active. As long as the students are getting an adequate number of hours of sleep as per their age requirement they would perform well in school. ”

Dr Khatri said children should get eight to 10 hours of sleep. She also said there are other factors that contribute to students’ well-being like their lifestyle, what they eat and their exercise routine.

“Parents must make sure their children have an adequate number of hours of sleep because it is important for every child’s development and not having enough sleep can cause problems like short attention spam and behavioural problems,” she said.

Source: Gulf News

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