The Herman Trend Alert
April 7, 2021
Adolescent Sleep Deprivation, COVID, and Learning
Some years ago now, I covered the topic of school start times and how adolescents would perform better if (and when) we considered their circadian rhythms. See that Herman Trend Alert here.
Past Evidence Had Been Ignored
Twelve years ago, long before Adrianna Huffington's landmark book on sleep, I wrote about the research that showed schools for adolescent children should begin their day at 8:30am or later. That way, young people would be able to get the 8 to 10 hours of sleep recommended by experts for their age group.
COVID, a Natural Experiment
One unintended (and happy) consequence of the global pandemic has been that adolescents forced to move to remote learning have benefitted from an extra hour or more of sleep. They did not have to catch buses at dawn or report to their classrooms as early as 7:30 am.
The Evidence is Significant
From the Academy of Pediatrics to researchers at Harvard Medical School, sleep experts agree that more sleep benefits young people. Yet, in spite of this agreement, 93 percent of US high schools and 83 percent of middle schools are not following that guidance. And that includes everywhere except progressive California: California passed legislation, in October 2019, to mandate that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 am and middle schools no earlier than 8 am; the law takes effect in 2022.
Sleep Deprivation Contributes to Some Nasty Problems
From obesity and diabetes to heart disease, mood disorders, substance abuse and even vehicle accidents, sleep deprivation contributes to these issues. Adequate sleep not only makes all of us feel better, but it also improves overall health, bolstering our immune systems---especially important in these pandemic times.
Will We Take Heed of these Data?
Unfortunately, in spite of overwhelming anecdotal evidence to the contrary, most school districts intend to resume the previous schedules. Remote learning had allowed many of formerly sleep-deprived adolescents to stay in bed an extra hour or more, providing a "natural experiment" that sleep experts hoped would inform the long debate over school starting times. Sadly, the break students enjoyed with remote learning was abandoned when we were once again were able to meet in person, ignoring the gains that some students had experienced.
What's Next for this Issue
Unless and until parents and school administrators wake up and start putting children's health before convenience for adults, we will not see major changes in school schedules. I am pessimistic about this change in the short-term, but optimistic in the long-term.
Special thanks to the Washington Post for their valuable coverage of this important topic.
Next Week's Herman Trend Alert: Gamifying Small Business Marketing
Next week, I return to one of my favorite topics: Gamification. In this Trend Alert, I will explore how small and medium size businesses can use Gamification for fun and profit.
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