Later meeting times create better mental well-being among secondary school students

By Lise Birk Kristensen

studies show that up to 60% of Danish school children aged 11-15 years sleep less than 8 hours every night. According to the Danish Health Authority guidelines, it is recommended that children between 11-15 years old should sleep between 8-10 hours every night.

A development and behavior that is causing concern among Danish schools.

At the same time, sleep problems are unfortunately common among children and young people. Among 11-15-year-olds, one in two girls and one in three boys have difficulty falling asleep on a weekly basis.

The importance of sleep quantity and sleep quality for the development and well-being of children and adolescents
Too little sleep can have both short- and long-term consequences for children and young people's health. Poor quality sleep and lack of sleep can lead to increased risk of mental health problems including stress and anxiety, but poor sleep also affects children and young people's learning ability and increased difficulty concentrating.

More and better sleep improves mental wellbeing at school
In an effort to improve wellbeing, a number of schools across the country are allowing students in grades 7-9 to arrive up to an hour later.

In the summer of 2022, Th. Langs Skole decided to launch a well-being and education project in their secondary school (7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grade, approx. 180 students).

Based on evidence-based research and the knowledge of sleep experts, the school changed the meeting time from 08:10 to 09:00. From the start, the project was monitored and documented via Hvil®, which both maps students' actual sleep behavior and patterns and can communicate behavior-changing exercises for better sleep.

DR has uncovered the students' excerpts (read the article here), where students come forward and talk about the effects of the school's changed meeting times.

"I feel less tired and I think we talk more in the morning than before, when everyone was looking at their cell phones. We have become more social," says Sigrid Baattrup from 8th grade.

Sigrid is not the only student who is excited about the new meeting times, Anton Nitschke from 7th grade feels more fresh in the morning: "I can feel a better atmosphere, where there is less noise and more concentration because people are fresh," says Anton.

According to the school principal, Tine Kristiansen, the students' exams, compared with data in Hvil®, show that students sleep longer and sleep better when they arrive at school an hour later.

Photo by Gustav Houe Dall (DR)