Imagine this scenario:
Your teen gets out of bed in the morning without
you having to nag at her and drag her out. She's in a pretty good mood, and
there's no major hassle before she runs off to catch the school bus, with
completed homework in hand. During first-period class, and for the rest of
the day, she's wide awake, participates in discussions, and even asks a question
or two. When she gets back the chemistry exam she took a few days ago, she's
gotten an A, a huge improvement from her usual grades in the sciences. After
school, during track practice, she's full of energy and her coach tells her
she's going to anchor the relay at the next meet. In the evening, though she's
a bit tired after a full day, she does her homework, IMs with her friends,
and gets to sleep around 11. Before she drifts right off to sleep, she sets
her alarm clock for 7:30 so she can get to school comfortably for her first
class at 8:45.
Does this sound like a fantasy? If your teen, like
most teens, has been grouchy, depressed, low performing, and often sick or
energy deprived from lack of sleep, it may seem that way. But great days like
this can become reality.
Having schools start just 45 minutes
later can make a huge difference in your teen's life, because that can mean
45 minutes of additional sleep, with all the benefits sleep provides.
When the high schools in the Arlington, Virginia,
public school system moved their start times from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m., students
reported in a survey that they felt more alert and prepared for school and
teachers reported improvement in both student alertness and participation.
Parents noted that their teens had a much better attitude. Other schools reported
significant reductions in school dropout rates, less student depression, and
higher student grades as well as a number of other extremely positive outcomes.
In a study of Minnesota schools in which start
times were moved an hour later, results showed that:
Grades trended upward
Discipline problems went down
Illness calls dropped
Depression among students fell
Students and teachers were much happier
Simply put, students who attend schools that are
more in sync with their natural sleep-wake schedules are more able to learn
and are happier doing it. Schools with later start times have positive effects
on teachers and parents too.
Could your teen and your local schools
benefit from having later school start times? In a word, yes'”and
it's something both you and your teen can work toward. To help support your
effort, here is some information and advice about how to support sleep-deprivation
awareness in your schools and community and make later start times reality.
The National Sleep Foundation's website,
offers tons of information that will help you all along the way. The site
provides fact sheets, information on a number of schools across the country
that have succeeded in moving start times later, and ideas for you to consider
as you go about designing your own plan and moving toward change.
The National Institutes of Health
provide a free supplementary curriculum on sleep aimed at ninth-
through twelfth-grade biology students. The curriculum, entitled Sleep, Sleep
Disorders, and Biological Rhythms, is available in print form as well as online
You can also work at the county or state level to have sleep education incorporated
into the health curriculum in all elementary, middle, and high schools.
To learn more about tips for starting your own
parent group, check out Snooze or Lose or visit the S.L.E.E.P organization's