Changing sleep patterns for older children An additional factor


Changing sleep patterns for older children
An additional factor that impacts students’ levels of alertness as they grow older is changing sleep
patterns. During the school year, students sleep significantly less than during holidays (Touitou and
Bégué, 2010). As a compensatory measure, adolescents sleep much longer over the weekends and
holidays, desynchronising their sleep patterns, as observed in Poland (Szymczak et al., 1993). In the United
States, Carskadon (1999) challenged the popular belief that such sleeping patterns reflect purely
behavioural factors, such as late work, social activities or media use, but rather result from a complex
interplay of psychosocial and biological factors, e.g. pubertal phase delay.
Deficient sleep has been shown to impair memory, attention, reaction time, mood and divergent
thinking (Carskadon et al., 1997; Carskadon, 1999; Martin, 2003)

 as well as to contribute to disciplinary
problems (Carpenter, 2001). The duration of sleep has been also shown to be related to school grades, with
more hours of sleep having a positive influence on school performance in the United States (Allen, 1992;
Wolfson and Carskadon, 1998) and in Israel (Epstein, Chilla and Lavie, 1995). 

Wolfson and Carskadon
(1998) studied 3 120 Rhode Island students aged 13 to 19 and found that students getting C, D and E
grades slept on average 25 minutes less each night and went to bed on average 40 minutes later than
students achieving the higher A or B grades.
Some research from the United States shows that older students fail to adapt their body clocks to the
school schedule to the detriment of their well-being and performance. Wolfson and Carskadon (1998)
found that students did not adjust their sleeping habits to suit the earlier start in upper secondary school,
but slept on average 40 minutes less when transitioning from lower secondary school. In a subsequent
longitudinal study, Carskadon (1999) examined the impact of the earlier school start on students as they
transitioned to upper secondary school and found that students had pathological levels of sleepiness at
8.30 a.m. impairing their ability to learn in the early school hours. A school district in Minnesota
experimented by changing the school start from 7.15 a.m. to 8.40 a.m. A survey of 7 000 high school
students revealed increased amount of sleep during the week, slightly better school performance and fewer
reports of depressive feelings (Carpenter, 2001).

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