A study released last month at a conference sponsored by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, looked at 8000 four year olds and found that the most significant predictor of language and early math development was a regular relatively early bedtime (prior to 9 p.m.). The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Erika Gaylor, noted that, "Getting parents to set bedtime routines can be an important way to make a significant impact on children's emergent literacy and language skills.”
Another study presented at the same conference looked at teens of driving age, and was prompted by the concerns of a sleep researcher whose own daughter needed to get up at 6 am each day for a school day that began shortly after 7 am. Dr. Robert Vorona, associate professor of internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, looked at Motor Vehicle Bureau data for two adjacent counties in Virginia and found that the county where the high schools opened at 8:40 am instead of 7:20 am had a 40% lower rate of auto accidents among students. This supports earlier studies in other areas and is linked to what scientists have long known -- that sleep needs of young people change at puberty and that growing teens need around 9 hours of sleep at the same time as their daily rhythms shift and they find it difficult to fall asleep much before 11 pm. This means that going to sleep earlier to offset an early start to their school day is not much help. Schools need to re-think early start times for high school students. Their students' lives may depend upon it.
photo credit: sdminor81 at Flickr.com