To many Americans, Canada is looking pretty good right now—from their hunky, mentally stable Prime Minister to their socialized health care plan and chill weed laws. They're like that polite cousin who has his shit together, the one who calls every now and then to remind you that it's still not too late to open a Roth IRA.
But there's still one thing that still unites our collective North American misery—among adolescents, at least: waking up to go to school.
A recent study of 30,000 students from 362 Canadian schools found that one in three students don't get enough sleep, a problem that previous studies have linked to lower grades and poor health. Lack of sleep among teens has also been connected to a greater likelihood of developing mental health problems, as well as getting into car accidents.
Canada, of course, appears to be working on a sensible fix for that problem, too. In the study, the researchers found that delaying school start times until 9:30 am—roughly 60 to 90 minutes later, depending on the school—meant that most students slept at least an extra half-hour. That meant they were less likely to be exhausted than students from schools that started earlier.
"The problem is that early school start times conflict with the natural circadian clock of teenagers," lead study author Geneviève Gariépy, a post-doctoral student in McGill's Institute of Health and Social Policy, said in a press release.
"As teenagers go through puberty, their circadian clock gets delayed by two to three hours. By the time they reach junior high, falling asleep before 11 pm becomes biologically difficult, and waking up before 8 am is a struggle. Adolescents are fighting biology to get to school on time."
Gariépy, however, acknowledges that reform isn't likely happen overnight. "Changing school start times involves consultations among various stakeholders, and logistical issues such as bus schedules," she said. "But these challenges can be overcome. A later school start-time policy has the potential to benefit a lot of students."