“There is a major epidemic in our country right now, and it’s that our teenagers are not getting enough sleep! In the past few years many large organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have been encouraging middle and high schools to start their mornings later so teens can get enough sleep. In fact, the AAP recommends that middle and high schools not start before 8:30am.
You might be wondering why teens just can’t go to sleep earlier at night so that they can get up earlier in the morning and still obtain their required 8.5-9.5hrs of nightly sleep that they need. The reason has to do with their circadian rhythms, or biological clocks. As humans we all have a sleep hormone called Melatonin that helps us to feel sleepy at night. For young children and adults, Melatonin increases in our systems earlier in the night, however, this hormone increase does not happen for teens until a much later hour. While they may go to bed at 9:30 or 10pm, they often aren’t able to actually fall asleep until somewhere between 11pm-12am. Again, they have science working against them when it comes to their going to bed at an acceptable hour. Couple those late nights with needing to be awake at 5 or 6am to catch a bus or drive to school, and it is a recipe for disaster!
Not only am I a concerned parent of 4 children (including 1 teen at Emmaus High School), but I am also a child, teen, and adult sleep coach. I work with teens who are sleep deprived, depressed, doing poorly in school, and partaking in risky behavior, so I know firsthand what a lack of sleep does to them. Besides the things I mentioned, sleep deprivation also causes reduced memory and information processing, daytime sleepiness, and increased tardiness, absences, and school drop-out rates. Teens also have decreased grades and motivation, poorer health, and increased discipline problems, drug and alcohol use, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. They have an increased risk of injury in athletic sports, and students driving drowsy are the equivalent to those driving drunk! Being forced to function when your body is not ready is what often leads kids to caffeine and energy drinks, before turning that need into something stronger (like pills, drugs, and alcohol) in order to get up and stay awake all day.
If parents aren’t going to step up and ask their schools to consider making these extremely important time changes, then who is? Most parents wouldn’t knowingly let their child do something that puts them at risk for all the things I mentioned above, yet that’s exactly what we’re allowing by watching them struggle each and every day with having to go to school so early. Kids have enough things in life to worry about, so let’s give them a helping hand where we can! I encourage you to talk to your local school board like I did last night and ask them to consider changing their start times. The more parents band together in this initiative, the more likely they are to listen.
To learn more about this important nationwide initiative, visit www.startschoollater.net. They have lots of great resources, facts, and handouts so that you can make a difference with your school. I invite you to follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/sleeptasticsolutionsadults to keep up to date on sleep related issues, including this important initiative!”
Sleeptastic Solutions, Founder/CEO
–Certified Pediatric Sleep Sense Consultant, Integrative Adult Sleep Coach, and Lactation Counselor (CLC)
-Certified in Infant and Child Mental Health
-Eastern Regional Director, Association of Professional Sleep Consultants
Facebook – Children: https://www.facebook.com/sleeptasticsolutions
Facebook – Adults: https://www.facebook.com/sleeptasticsolutionsadults