Sleep Key to School Start Time Change

Changing the start times for Barrington's schools is a waste of time unless teens actually cut into their sleep deprivation, according to a sleep doctor at a public forum Thursday night.

Changing the start times for Barrington schools only works if students get more sleep.

A childrens’ sleep specialist, Dr. Richard Millman at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, repeated that statement numerous times on Thursday night, Jan. 26, at a forum in the high school auditorium titled “Changing School Start Times: A Good Idea for Barrington?”

“You have to go to bed at the same time,” Millman said of teens, “or everything stays the same.”

He was referring to sleep deprivation, which he said all teens suffer from. So, any extra amount of sleep helps, he said.

The doctor was joined as a guest speaker by Lisa Bogan of the Connecticut League of Women Voters, recognized as an expert on school start times, and a former vice-chairperson of the Wilton (CT) Board of Education when it changed school start times in 2003. Wilton is a community similar to Barrington, she said.

Bogan urged everyone to “remember the greater good” when considering making changes to start times.

“This is about high school kids,” she said, “not about you.”

A chart of seven different options for start times at all of Barrington’s schools was displayed as a backdrop on the stage through most of the forum. The times, developed by Superintendent Robert McIntyre, were put out there based on bussing needs.

Approximately two-dozen parents and students also asked questions for more than an hour. Most of the students, including two girls’ basketball players and the crew for the high school's morning Sunrise Show, which recorded the forum, opposed the change for the most part. The parents gave mixed reactions, although most seemed to favor a change based on the medical research.

Millman introduced himself as both a sleep doctor and a parent of two teenage sons. He said he sees first hand the advantages of getting additional sleep.

“This group needs 9 to 10 hours, but they get less,” said Millman, usually around 6 to 7 hours.

With this deprivation, their school performance goes down, their moods change, they’re heavily caffeinated, they have poorer eating habits, their reaction time and speed is slower and they don’t perform as well on the athletic field, he said.

“They also fall asleep at the wheel,” Millman said, a prime factor in this age group having the highest accident rate, especially when it’s combined with alcohol.

"The kicker in this," he said, is that changing start times “is not a license to have kids go to bed later. They need to go to bed at the same time. It’s worthless if they go to bed later.”

This is where the parents have to take control to help their children maximize their potential, Millman said.

“This is one piece to make kids better functioning,” he said.

Indeed, the sleep doctor said, “moving the schedule back only 15 to 20 minutes isn’t worth it.” He would push for an hour, a significant amount of extra sleep for teens.

Bogan talked primarily about the need to get all community groups involved in the change or it can prove very difficult. She said Wilton did a study with complete impartiality that included students, teachers, parents and other groups.

“Find out when kids go to bed,” she said. “Find out what teachers and parents prefer.”

The data in Wilton proved that a change could be made, she said.

Bogan said the Wilton superintendent also was aggressive. For instance, she said, he told his bus contractor to make the new schedule work, and it did.

School principals concerned about athletics and clubs and other activities also found a way to make everything work, she said.

School Committee Chairman Patrick Guida said the 2-1/2 hour forum will be followed up with a public workshop on school start times. A date has yet to be determined.

Guida also served as the moderator for the forum, which was put together by the board's Health and Wellness Committee and two of its strongest advocates, Megan Douglas and Jill Cuzzone.

To see the forum recorded by the Sunrise Show crew for the Eagle News Network, click here and then go to Sunrise Production Events among the categories. The recording was expected to be ready for viewing Friday morning. If not, Monday morning.

Jill C. January 27, 2012 at 10:06 PM
A correction to your statement that no one has looked at or considered the elementary students - there have not been any studies done on the effect on younger children. As one of the researchers of this issue, I can say that we did look for the information - it has been and continues to be a consideration. Dr. Millman did also state that because of younger children's natural tendency to be up earlier, from a physiological standpoint, it would not seem harmful. That said, certainly something to continue to take into consideration. I agree with you JJMom in urging all parents & students to take part in this discussion. Look into the issue. If you agree that our children should be getting more sleep - let's look for ways to solve this issue. Focusing on getting more sleep has many potential benefits for the kids, parents, families, teachers & community. There is a lot of research out there and there are a lot of schools that have made a change. Take a look at the research and join the discussion!
Manifold Witness January 27, 2012 at 10:10 PM
One report on how things are going in Wilton since the time was changed (“Changing School Start Times: Wilton , CT, undated) admits that there are problems for students who “have to be pulled out of class early for away games”, “students who play more than one sport”, and “Wilton did not see any changes in attendance or tardiness”. From this report we note that the follow up survey to determine if there were benefits from the time change was “truncated” and any “trend toward improved grades” is simply described as being “hard to measure”.
Manifold Witness January 29, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Besides her title with the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, may we know the credentials that qualify Ms. Bogan as an "expert on school start times"? Please see these excerpts from an article entitled, “Delaying School Start Times Causes Alarm”: …”Lisa Bogan, a former school board member in Wilton, Conn., which changed its start times in 2003. She is now the school start time change specialist (yes, there is such a position) for the League of Women Voters of Connecticut. The state league embraces efforts to change school start times because it sees them as a way to improve communities that is both nonpartisan and research-based, Bogan says.”
Manifold Witness January 29, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Auto accidents caused by Barrington teens falling asleep at the wheel? Do we have any actual statistics as to the number of auto accidents actually caused by Barrington teens who actually fell asleep at the wheel where the accident did NOT involve any other illegal activity such alcohol use and/or use of illegal drugs and/or auto theft, etc.? (We want to isolate the one cause - falling asleep at the wheel, please, so we can evaluate those incidents.) Let's please at least be fair to our kids by at least put a little bit of objective science into this if we're going to throw statistics around. Thank you.
Molly Leary February 02, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Hello, I am a freshman student at Barrington High School and I watched the forum on the Sunrise website. I wish I could've been there to state my opinion. I would've mentioned that when we have our CPT days every other thursday, there are more "tardies" than usual and I feel that this would be the outcome of an hour later start time. Also, if the start time was pushed back further, I would just go to bed later like I do with CPT days. I say to myself the night before CPT, "Oh well I don't have to get up at 6 tomorrow, I can stay up later and be just the same as I normally am every morning but get up at 7." Also, I just came from St. Luke's School which started at approximately 8:25 and ended at around 3:15. I really did not like this. By the time i was dropped off at home, it was around 4:00 and I would have dance practice at around 4:30. I would be rushing around to get to my dance lesson and then I would rush home to finish my homework and go to bed close to midnight. This is only my own story but I feel that this is how changing the start time will affect others with similar stories to mine.


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