Do you have a teenager in your house who is constantly exhausted, living on very little sleep while trying to cram in homework, an after-school job, activities, and a social life?
Writing in "The New York Times", Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine writes about sleep deprivation among students. He suggests that teens might be suffering the most from a lack of sleep. He says teens need 9-10 hours of sleep per night, but with many high school classes beginning at 7:30 a.m., few teens are getting anywhere near that much sleep.
He argues, “There’s no good reason school has to start this early, and starting it later might improve the amount of sleep teenagers get. A study published in 2014 examined 9,000 students in eight public schools in three states. It found that in high schools where classes began at 7:30 a.m., about a third of children got at least eight hours of sleep a night. If they started at 8:35 a.m., about 60% of children achieved that goal.”
And the effects go beyond the classroom.
“Perhaps more important, the number of car crashes by drivers ages 16-18 was reduced by 70% when school start times were changed from 7:35 to 8:55 a.m.”, says Carroll.
And according to the study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are long-term educational benefits of a school day that begin well after the sun has risen: “Academic performance outcomes, including grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science, and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates, and reduced tardiness show significantly positive improvement with the later start times of 8:35 a.m. or later.”
And apparently, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for a later start to the school day but Carroll says few school systems followed through.
What can parents do? Here are a few options:
Make Your Voice Heard
This is a situation where parental input and grass roots efforts might make the most difference. If you feel strongly that your teen is suffering from not enough sleep, speak up and request that something be done. Once others join your chorus, your will might be too powerful to stop.
Meet With Stakeholders
This is a fight that needs powerful support, so the first step is to meet with your child’s principal and see if they will back your quest for a later start time. If you get their suppert, and other high school principals are willing to step up as well, you might have a powerful lobby to take to the school superintendent. This is an issue that might take years to get solved, so it might not directly benefit your children, but you’ll be doing a good deed for others to come.
Choose a Different School
Is there a charter school or a private school in your community that offers a later start time? If so, that might be an option.
Help Your Child
If your child is struggling to get homework done, engaging in extracurricular activities, and working a part-time job, maybe something has to give. You need to sit down with your child and help establish priorities and a workable schedule to enable them to get everything done and get a good night’s sleep.