By Elke Bowman, produced for online by Natalie Brown

Discussion has sparked about later start times in schools, after international research linked start times with lower rates of teenage depression and improved alertness.

Two-thirds of young Australians experience at least one symptom of sleeping disorders, with the average teenager getting well under the recommended eight to 10 hours sleep.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute paediatrician Harriet Hiscock says by getting the recommended amount of sleep, teenagers can improve their academic outcomes.

“They are not getting enough sleep,” says Hiscock.

“That’s when we consolidate our memories, so they can have problems pertaining facts and information, and the next day in the classroom, they may not be as alert and able to focus and take on their learning, so it can have a direct effect on that as well.”

Hiscock says Queensland’s principals and teachers should rethink how school days are structured, as teenagers learn best mid-morning, as opposed to first-thing.

Students are not the only ones impacted by their sleep deprivation, says Queensland Teachers’ Union vice president Sam Pidgeon.

“If students aren’t able to focus and concentrate in class, that’s a big issue for those students, but also for their teachers,” says Pidgeon, adding that these years of learning are “critical”.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Association CEO Kevan Goodworth disagrees, saying start times should not be amended, as ensuring students are getting enough sleep is beyond a school’s control.

“As parents and caregivers in the home, we need to be thinking about whether our children are getting the sleep that they need at home,” says Goodworth.

He says teachers can assist by monitoring the amount of research, assignments and homework set in the classroom within “the realms of possibility” so students can complete the work and get the recommended night’s sleep.