The Lycée Times Newsfeed

Sunday, October 10, 2010

“Please sir, can I have some more… sleep?”

Dear Readers,

    Only one in five teenagers gets the optimal 9 hours of sleep on school nights.
    Lycée students who report earning C’s or lower, get less sleep than those reporting higher marks.
    Teenagers naturally get sleepy later at night and wake up later, putting them at odds with early school hours.

And it’s for these reasons, that there has been talk about changing school times for Lycée and Collège over the last few months because it has been scientifically proven that students have difficulty going to sleep and waking up at prescribed times.

This is how the plans are working in America. But many students in France agree with this decision.

Audrey Brissaud is a sixteen year old lycée student, studying for her BAC this year. The workload, combined with the incompatible school hours, mean that she finds it hard to pass a day without yawning. For Audrey, like many students, it’s an early start to the day. The day starts with her alarm going off at precisely 5:30 a.m. She then takes an hour to get ready before taking the bus at 7 a.m. It’s a half hour journey to her Lycée. When she gets home at 6 p.m, she has time to start her homework before having tea and getting back to work. In Premier, with the BAC de Français, Maths and Physique-Chimie et SVT, looming on the horizon, the increased workload means she’ll still be working come 10 p.m. She normally can’t sleep until 10:30 or 11 p.m which is natural for anyone of her age. However, if you do the math, it won’t take long to see she’s not getting enough sleep. She’ll usually get around 7 or 8 hours a night on school nights, just like the vast majority of Lycéens in France. But it’s not just France that has this problem. The UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, the USA and most other countries, face the same problem.

D.T. Max “Some of our epidemic of insomnia (or sleeplessness) is probably just due to our refusal to pay attention to our biology” says D.T. Max, sleep expert and author (pictured right), “The natural sleep rhythms of teenagers would call for a late wake-up – but there they are, starting school at 8 a.m”. The lack of sleep radically reduces productivity in the classroom and in the workplace. Charles Czeisler of Harvard University, notes that going without sleep for 24 hours or getting only five hours of sleep a night (in the case of some Lycéens) for a week, is the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. You wouldn’t send your kids to school drunk. Would you?

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (click for more)There are major health risks involved with the way we are educating our future generations. This is why the French government are “taking a look” at changing the hours. But we have a feeling it’s not going to be taken seriously and I hope we’re wrong.

The problem spreads further than Lycée. Primary school students who get less sleep are at greater risk of becoming overweight. But it goes outside the school system. The problem exists in the government sector as well. According to a Harvard-conducted study on 2,700 first-year medical residents, “one in 20 admits to making a fatigue-related mistake that resulted in the death of a patient”. Despite all these problems, it is possible to resolve the situation. The Spanish government have taken the matter seriously, and in 2006, a commission formed by businessman Ignacio Buqueras y Bach, who spearheaded the attempt to get Spaniards to bed earlier, became part of their government.

But for the moment, we just have to hope and pray that the French government will take it seriously and change the hours. After all, how can a student pass their exams if their drunk?

Article by The Editor



Anonymous said...

Wow- I wish I could have this school starting time! I live in the US and my bus comes around 6:20- and I'm one of the last to get picked up. Many students I know get picked up at 5:50 or even 5:40. We start at 7:15.
I'm in several AP classes and most of the students I know regularly go to sleep at midnight or later. It's almost unheard of to get to sleep before 11, and the people who do are the ones who do nothing after school. I get five or six hours of sleep on a GOOD day, and more often than not I get 2-3 hours or none. I don't even get home until 9:30 during the school week due to hours of dance and choral group practices and clubs. Many athletes are still at school when I leave.
In the US we've been trying to get our starting time to 8 but most schools are refusing even that.

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