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Delaying school start time by one hour positively affects adolescents' cognitive performance

WESTCHESTER, Ill. Delaying an adolescents school start time by one hour has a positive effect on his or her cognitive performance, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Thursday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Orna Tzischinsky, PhD, of Emek Yezreel College in Israel, focused on 47 eighth graders from two classes, who were divided into experimental and control groups for a two-week period. On week one, the experimental class began their school day one hour later than usual (at 8:30 a.m.), while the control class began at the regular time (7:30 a.m.). On week two, both classes began at 7:30 a.m. The subjects were asked to maintain their habitual sleep-wake pattern. Actigraphs were worn to monitor sleep-wake patterns. On the fifth day of each week, the students performed a cognitive test.

According to the results, during the first week, the experimental class woke up 51 minutes later on average than the control class, while during the second week, the experimental and the control class woke up at the same time. Bedtime and sleep efficiency remained the same during both weeks.

The cognitive tests showed better performance with the experimental group in comparison to the control group on the first week, said Dr. Tzischinsky. The results demonstrate that longer sleep duration positively affects cognitive functioning.

It is recommended that adolescents get nine hours of nightly sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips to adolescents on how to get a good nights sleep:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.

  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

  • Get a full nights sleep every night.

  • Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, as well as any medicine that has a stimulant, prior to bedtime.

  • Do not stay up all hours of the night to cram for an exam, do homework, etc. If after-school activities are proving to be too time-consuming, consider cutting back on these activities.

  • Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom.

  • Do not go to bed hungry, but dont eat a big meal before bedtime either.

  • Avoid any rigorous exercise within six hours of your bedtime.

  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark and a little bit cool.

  • Get up at the same time every morning.

Those who suspect that they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician or a sleep specialist.


Contact: Kathleen McCann
American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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