By Cara Murez HealthDay reporter
TUESDAY, Jan 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) – For several years, a leading US pediatric group has been calling for middle and high schools to start later in the morning to help these young people get the right amount of sleep.
New research now suggests that not only students benefit from later start times: their parents also take a break.
“Children don’t live in a vacuum. You live in a complex family system. Especially in the morning, most parents will realize that they are involved in some way in helping their children wake up, ”says study author Lisa Meltzer. She is a professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver.
“So if students have to get up early, parents have to get up early. By adjusting the starting times for school, which then affects when parents need to get up to help their students get up in the morning and prepare for school, ”said Meltzer.
To learn more about how the school schedule affects parents, the research team partnered with Cherry Creek Schools, a large district in the Denver area.
Cherry Creek Schools adjusted their start times, starting middle and high schools about 50 to 70 minutes later in the morning. Elementary school students, who, according to experts, don’t experience the same negative effects from earlier tee times, went to school an hour earlier than they did before.
The parents of kindergarten children up to 12that Graders conducted annual surveys before the change and for two years after the change in schedules. The parents reported on their sleep and wake times, the quality of their sleep, and whether they felt tired.
The study found that parents slept longer when their older children had to get out of bed a little later. Though it was a small amount per night, about 20 minutes that added up to an additional 60 hours for each parent over the school year, Meltzer said. The researchers also found that more parents got at least seven hours of sleep each night.
The results showed that parents of elementary school students kept their normal sleeping habits, moving the bed and waking hours a little earlier.
The researchers nevertheless saw advantages for parents who have children in both age groups, since the new start time for elementary schools was not as early as it was for high school students.
“We know that sleep is linked to every aspect of health and wellbeing,” said Meltzer. “We know it’s related to physical health – getting enough sleep is related to better health outcomes, including healthy weight and cardiovascular health,” she added.
“We know it’s related to performance, alertness, drowsy driving. We know it is related to mental health. People who sleep more have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety as well [better] the general functioning of the family, “Meltzer continued.” So getting enough sleep is important, as we have known for many years for children as well as adults. And by improving the sleep of parents, it helps improve the functioning of the entire family. “
The study was based on the 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. at the earliest so that teens can get more sleep every night.
The researchers concluded that the changed start-up times “had a significantly positive downstream effect on the sleep and diurnal function of secondary school parents, with primary school parents having minimal impact”.
The results were recently published online in the journal Sleep health.
Later awake times not only offer many physical and mental health benefits, but also lead to fewer conflicts in parent-child interaction, said Dr. Cora Collette Breuner. She is Professor of Pediatrics / Adolescent Medicine and attending physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“Parents sleep more because they don’t have to get their children up,” says Breuner, who was not involved in the study.
As children become teenagers, their circadian rhythms change, she noted. You are not so tired earlier in the late evening, but still need enough sleep. Students with earlier start times also tend to have less breakfast time while rushing out the door, she added.
One area where the community cares for high school children who start and leave school later than their younger siblings is because they cannot be home in time to babysit. Breuner said she resisted the idea.
“It is not normative that a 15-year-old should take care of his younger siblings. The schools should look after the children whose parents are working after school, support the parents and have aftercare who know what” they are doing, helping them Children with homework and [get] Exercise and feed, “said Breuner.
The changeover to changed start times is a challenge for the municipalities, Meltzer admitted. Cherry Creek Schools were very involved in the community prior to the implementation of the new timetables. Some schools also offered pre-school care to help parents who couldn’t move their working hours. Extracurricular activities have been adapted to the new discharge times.
“A number of changes have had to take place, and change is hard and change is scary, but the benefits of sleep enhancement for both students and their parents are really important,” Meltzer said.
SOURCES: Lisa Meltzer, PhD, Child Psychologist and Professor, Pediatrics, National Jewish Health Center, Denver; Cora Breuner, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics / Adolescent Medicine and Associate Professor of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, and attending physician, Seattle Children’s Hospital; Sleep health, October 8, 2021, online
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