Later school day an idea worth studying

Most of us know the benefits of a nutritious diet and exercise. But what about that oft-neglected piece of the health puzzle: sleep?

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/01/2019 (1300 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Most of us know the benefits of a nutritious diet and exercise. But what about that oft-neglected piece of the health puzzle: sleep?

In 2016, the annual ParticipAction Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth looked at sleep for the first time, and concluded that one in three Canadian kids is sleep-deprived.

Last year, former Winnipeg School Division trustee Cathy Collins recommended the WSD weigh the pros and cons of instituting a 9:30 a.m. start time at its 14 secondary schools, rather than the current 9 a.m. start, in order to better set teenagers up for success. The division is currently surveying staff, students and parents and will prepare a report on the issue.

It’s a strategy supported by a 2016 McGill University study of about 30,000 students between the ages of 10 and 18 from 362 schools across Canada. The study found that students who started later in the morning slept longer and were less tired than the students who had an earlier bell, and a 9:30 a.m. start time had measurable benefits.

Insufficient sleep, the study concluded, affects students’ attendance, physical activity, academic performance and mental health.

A recent study suggests many students are sleep-deprived. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press files)

While part of the onus is certainly on parents to enforce a bedtime, it’s not just late-night screen sessions keeping kids awake. Adolescent hormones also play a role in determining teens’ sleep cycles.

But the topic of delaying school start times raises another question: why do we stubbornly cling to schedules that don’t reflect the current reality? Whenever the subject of delaying school start times comes up, arguments arise about how students are being insufficiently prepared for the “real world” — the “real world,” of course, meaning working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

The eight-hour day divides 24 hours into tidy thirds: eight hours for labour, eight hours for rest and eight hours for “recreation.” Trouble is, most people’s days don’t look like that. An eight-hour day quickly becomes a 10-hour day (or more) once you factor in commuting time. And since those “recreation” hours get lost to exercise, meal prep, chores, child care and, too often, more work, it’s little wonder we start robbing hours from the alotted rest time in order to feel like we have lives.

Of course, not every worker begins their day at 9 a.m. Shift workers, freelancers, contract employees, weekend warriors — they all live and work in the “real world,” too.

In an era that places a premium on hustle, ambition and productivity as status symbols, many employees of all ages struggle with chronic stress, sleep deprivation and, eventually, burnout

In many industries, the stable, 9-to-5 workday is going the way of… well, the stable, 9-to-5 workday. Job precariousness combined with crushing student debt means young people who will soon enter the workforce — in other words, the kids currently in high school — will have to work harder and longer to gain footing in their chosen field, if they can even find work in their chosen field.

And in an era that places a premium on hustle, ambition and productivity as status symbols, many employees of all ages struggle with chronic stress, sleep deprivation and, eventually, burnout.

That’s the “real world” we should be concerned about, not teenagers’ ability to turn up to a job at 8:45 a.m. If a later start time in school could make our kids’ lives better, surely it merits some thoughtful consideration and discussion.

The WSD’s careful study of school start times might represent a step in a realistic direction.

Report Error Submit a Tip