Considering the schooling environment in Singapore, sleep and school start times have been a hot topic issue. School start times and school workload can often be correlated to poorer quality sleep and the subsequent degradation of performance in school, as well as affecting mental health in students. The University of Rochester Medical Center published a study that implies school start time having an effect on sleep and mental health symptoms.
Teenagers with school starting times before 8:30 a.m. may be at particular risk of experiencing depression and anxiety due to compromised sleep quality, according to a recent URMC study.
The results showed that good baseline sleep hygiene was directly associated with lower average daily depressive/anxiety symptoms across all students, and the levels were even lower in students with school start times after 8:30. However, students with good baseline sleep hygiene and earlier school start times had higher average daily depressive/anxiety symptoms.
“Our results suggest that good sleep hygiene practices are advantageous to students no matter when they go to school,” says Peltz. “Maintaining a consistent bedtime, getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep, limiting caffeine, turning off the TV, cell phone and video games before bed… these efforts will all benefit their quality of sleep and mental health. However, the fact that school start times showed a moderating effect on mental health symptoms, suggests that better sleep hygiene combined with later school start times would yield better outcomes.”
Peltz says one possible explanation for the difference may be that “earlier starting students” have more pressure on them to get high-quality sleep, or there may be other aspects of the school environment that vary by start time that may trigger their depression/anxiety symptoms. Peltz says there may be other lifestyle changes that coincide with earlier start times as well (for example, morning nutrition or exercise) that require closer scrutiny.
“More studies are definitely needed, but our results help clarify the somewhat mixed findings with other sleep hygiene-focused interventions, by suggesting that school start times may be a very important contextual factor,” he says.