Are your teens sleep deprived? There’s a buzz around the country about teenage sleep deprivation and a new movement called Start School Later. There’s actually an online petition that parents are signing to move back start times.
As a parent, I’m all for starting school later. My kids wake up at 6 a.m. on school days — they’re miserable and so am I.
Sleep deprivation is a real problem with teenagers and parents like me pay the price when our tired teens are downright cranky. Yet as Dr. Jeff Deitz points out on today’s Huffpost Healthy Living blog, there is still resistance to starting high school later to accommodate the biological time clocks of teenagers
How can it be that despite overwhelming evidence that sleep deprivation in teenagers is every bit the public health menace that cigarette smoking is, school administrators have held fast to the status quo?
Dr. Dietz says that sleep researchers have convincingly demonstrated that, on average, teenagers need nine hours of sleep and that their brains are programmed for them to stay up later than adults. I’m a night owl and many nights, I go to bed at midnight and my teens are still up. I would guesstimate that most teens get about six hours of sleep on school nights.
Of course, I don’t think its just the teenage biological clock that’s to blame. Some of the reason for the late nights, I think, is the huge amount of homework teens get in their honors and AP classes ( which are almost requirements to get into colleges these days).
Dr. Dietz compares teen sleep deprivation to cigarette smoking: “Not getting enough sleep is as pervasive in today’s culture as was consuming two or three packs per day of Lucky Strikes in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.” He’s so right.
The risk for our teens is that sleep is essential for sustained focus, concentration, and attention which are crucial for succeeding in high school. Dietz writes: “Clinically, every psychiatric disorder I treat in adolescents is worsened by getting too little sleep. Well over half the teenagers who come to me with attention symptoms are sleep deprived.”
Some schools are taking action.
CBS News recently reported on an eye-opening study says delaying high school starting times by just 30 minutes can reap big rewards. The study at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island, discovered students there were more alert in class, expressed better moods, arrived to class on time, and even reported eating a healthier breakfast due to a 30-minute later start.
“The results were stunning. There’s no other word to use,” says Patricia Moss, academic dean at the boarding school where the study was done.
Dietz believes high school should start at 8:45 a.m., or better at 9 o’clock.
I realize some kids work after school and starting early allows for earlier release. But I think there’s a middle ground that can be found in most school districts.
Parents, what do you think about teenage sleep deprivation? Some parents have decried the movement to start school later, calling it “the coddling of a generation and giving in to spoiled brats’ laziness.” Do you think starting school later would make a difference for your teen?