Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sleepless in America, continued.

On the feet of my recent research into sleeplessness in children, I ran across this fascinating article in New York Magazine about how lack of sleep affects our children. I know I have a tendency to paranoia, but this is pretty convincing.

Convinced by the mountain of studies, a handful of school districts around the nation are starting school later in the morning. The best known of these is in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable. “Truly flabbergasting,” said Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director for SAT Program Relations, on hearing the results.

Also a great word for describing that hour between when a kid should be in bed and when they actually are -- "the Slush Hour":

Long before children become overscheduled high schoolers gunning for college, parents start making trade-offs between their kids’ sleep and their other needs. This is especially true in the last hour of a child’s day, a time zone let’s call “the Slush Hour.” The Slush Hour is both a rush to sleep and a slush fund of potential time, sort of a petty-cash drawer from which we withdraw ten-minute increments. During the Slush Hour, children should be in bed, but there are so many competing priorities. As a result, sleep is treated much like the national debt—What’s another half-hour on the bill? We’re surviving; kids can, too.

1 comment:

John said...

There was an article in The Wall Street Journal maybe a year or eighteen months ago that argued that children of different ages differed from each others and from adults not merely in the amount of sleep they needed but when that required sleep was most effective. Some researchers have apparently found evidence to suggest that there are physiological reasons that teenagers don't perform well early in the morning, reasons that have nothing to do with laziness or lack of discipline. In light of this, they suggested that a wise education policy might be to reverse the traditional school start times for the different levels. That is, elementary school children should start earlier, high school children later.

I have no idea about the validity of the science underlying this argument, but I thought that the reaction of many of the WSJ's readers was interesting. You would have thought that the author had proposed for the government to buy every 16 year old a brand new Porsche.