Can starting school later help youths overcome sleep debt?
Sleep deprivation has been a constant concern in the 21st century.
Not only are working adults sacrificing sleep for work, students are facing insufficient sleep from school too. However, things may soon change, following the latest approach by the American Medical Association (AMA).
What’s going on?
The AMA aims to tackle sleep deprivation by pushing for a policy to start school an hour later at 8.30am, instead of the usual 7:30am, to help students to get enough sleep.
Targeted at middle and high school students in the United States, the AMA cited health concerns as their rationale for doing so. Besides being linked to physical and mental problems, such as poor memory performance, sleep deprivation may also hamper puberty development.
In recent years, sleep deprivation has also become a rising concern among Singaporeans, as Singapore was ranked as one of the most sleep-deprived nations worldwide.
Unsurprisingly, Singapore topped the survey again this year, in a study done by researchers at University of Michigan.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep for teenagers aged 14 to 17, Singaporean youths are getting far less sleep.
A study of 60 teenagers, conducted by Professor Michael Chee in 2013, revealed that Singaporeans teens only have an average of 4.36 hours of sleep.
To help students get sufficient rest before starting school, Nanyang Junior College (NYJC) has already adopted a policy similar to AMA’s initiative. For the past six years, NYJC students start school at 8.30am, and end classes between 2 to 3pm. This is unlike other JCs that usually start school at 7.30 am, and end between 12 to 1pm.
Amanda Ti is one of the NYJC students who had experienced starting school at 8:30am. The 21-year-old former student said: “You can take your time getting ready to go to school when you start late.”
Similarly, another NYJC graduate who experienced the same policy also supported the idea of starting school later.
“Comparing with students from other schools, it is shiok knowing that you can wake up at 7am while others have to wake up at 6am,” said Shi Jing, 22.
Moreover, current Temasek Junior College student, Gillian Chong, was inclined towards this idea as well. The 19-year-old said: “I have a habit of sleeping at 1 to 2am since I’m more of a procrastinator. So, I think starting at 8.30am is better than 7.30am.”
While some students thought that starting school later is a good measure, others felt that it may not be effective for tertiary institutions.
Andrea Oh, a 20-year-old Nanyang Technological University undergraduate, said: “It is possible for that extra hour in the morning to be filled with something else, like morning training for co-curricular activity or extra classes. This requires you to get up earlier.”
On the flipside, Tan Li Wen, 20, felt that the initiative does not tackle the root cause of sleep deprivation.
The Singapore Management University undergraduate said: “The amount of sleep people get is dependent on their daily activities. Hence, ending activities later [might mean] studying and sleeping later.”
What is your take?
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