(Cover) – EN Fitness & Wellbeing – A study claims that children are more likely to sleep well and feel better if they start school later in the day.

The findings were published in SLEEP by Oxford University Press, outlining data obtained from 375 students at an all-girls’ secondary school in Singapore. All the girls were in grades seven to 10, indicating an approximate age range of 12 to 16 years old, and started school at 7:30 AM.

This is one hour earlier than the minimum recommended by organisations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, and all individuals studied were operating on an average sleep time of six and a half hours, which is way below the recommended eight to 10 hours.

The participants were given a new school start time of 8:15 AM and researchers assessed self-reports of sleep timing, sleepiness, and well-being (depressive symptoms and mood) before and after the change was implemented, and also measured the total sleep time of each girl.

After a month, results showed that while the group were going to bed nine minutes later than they were before, they were awakening 32 minutes later, therefore spending an extra 23 minutes in bed each night. Other reported positive outcomes included a greater improvement in alertness and wellbeing, and lower levels of ‘sleepiness’ throughout the day. A particularly impressive finding was that those achieving at least eight hours of sleep increased from 6.9 per cent to 16 per cent.

While the value in later school start times have been recognised by many Western cultures, lead researcher Michael Chee hopes that East Asian societies will take note of the benefits on the cognitive and psychological health of students.

“Starting school later in East Asia is feasible and can have sustained benefits,” he said. “Our work extends the empirical evidence collected by colleagues in the West and argues strongly for disruption in practice and attitudes surrounding sleep and wellbeing in societies where these are believed to hinder rather than enhance societal advancement.”

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