On January 28th, 2021, Trustees with the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) received a copy of ‘‘Why we sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams’’ by Dr. Matthew Walker.
UCDSB’s Dr. David Armstrong, Chief Psychologist and Mental Health Lead, and Dr. Jennifer Curry, Chief Psychologist, presented to Trustees the importance of and correlation between a student’s sleep time and academic performance.
According to the presentation, in Canada 1 in 3 teenagers do not meet the recommended sleep guidelines.
The presentation highlighted that students with start times later than 8:30 a.m., see a small improvement in academic performance, and a decrease in sleepiness.
In September of 2022, Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO), which manages student transportation in the region, along with local school boards, changed the start time for high school students in Eastern Ontario to 8 a.m.
“Sleep is crucial for emotion regulation and learning. There’s a reason we’ve evolved to spend a third/half of our lives in a very vulnerable, almost unconscious state. It’s because it’s adaptive for us”, said Dr. Armstrong. “The current school start times tend to run counter to what we know about adolescent sleep changes.”
The presentation ended with comments and questions from the Trustees of UCDSB.
“On this day (Bell Let’s Talk) where we focus on mental wellness, there can be no doubt that this has a direct effect on the mental wellness of our students. Despite the fact that a change in our current status would be somewhat of a monumental task, and perhaps not embarrassing with a great deal of support. Nonetheless, it speaks to why we’re here, to do what is best for our students”, said Trustee Jamie Schoular.
Dr. Armstrong suggested that this issue would benefit from a poll to determine if parents want to see a later start date happen in their community.