Research studies commissioned on factors affecting sleep duration, quality for Singapore students: MOE
SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Education (MOE) commissioned two research studies on the impact of factors affecting sleep duration and sleep quality of students in Singapore, said Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling on Tuesday (Aug 3).
“This will help us better understand how later school start times could contribute to students’ longer sleep duration,” she said in Parliament, responding to questions from MP Jamus Lim (WP-Sengkang) and MP Cheng Li Hui (PAP-Tampines).
International research has established that the amount and quality of sleep are influenced by multiple factors including circadian rhythm, exercise and sleep habits, Ms Sun added.
Schools currently start no earlier than 7.30am, she said.
“Schools have the autonomy to adopt a later school start time, taking into consideration factors such as parents’ feedback, school end time, impact on after-school and inter-school programmes, transport provisions and traffic situation around their schools,” she added.
The Education Ministry will consider the results of local and overseas research, said Ms Sun.
“Apart from whether school start time should be delayed, we will need to work with parents to improve sleep hygiene, manage the overall load on students as well as their use of digital devices,” she added.
STAGGERED SCHOOL START TIMES
In a supplementary question, Associate Professor Jamus Lim asked if MOE could consider staggered start times for students in Primary 3 and above, or secondary school students, noting that children have different circadian rhythms before and after puberty, he added.
MP Leon Perera (WP-Aljunied) also noted that in previous discussions on school start times, the possibility of traffic congestion was a concern if school buses were taking students to school at the same time as office workers heading to work.
“Will the Government also consider that with the trend towards working from home, flexible work and so on, which may persist beyond the COVID pandemic, that is an issue that actually may be much less of a concern,” he added.
The Education Ministry will take these factors into consideration, said Ms Sun. The commissioned research studies will also help MOE understand issues related to adolescent sleep patterns and time use can be “addressed comprehensively”.
MP Lim Biow Chuan (PAP-Mountbatten) asked if schools could encourage parents to “get their children to sleep early”.
“I recall that when my kids were young, I used to tell them to sleep early, so that they would be able to have more sleep and to wake up early to be able to go to school without having problems,” he said.
“Instead of getting school to start later, would we not consider asking children to sleep earlier to get their full quota of available sleep?”
In response, Ms Sun acknowledged that delaying school start times “may not translate directly” into longer sleep times for students.
“Good sleeping habits, indeed they matter, they are an important factor,” she said, pointing to a 2016 local study that found that a 45-minute delay in school start time resulted in a 10-minute increase in sleep time in one school in Singapore.
“We need to work closely with parents so that the students have good sleeping habits, good sleep hygiene,” said Ms Sun.