For some time, the research on the biology of teenagers has informed us that they tend to be sleep deprived and would sleep longer and with more quality if they could wake a bit later in the morning. For years we have opened junior and high schools extremely early which is not in accord with that research. One of the problems is that there is much in a school day that has to happen in our schools and there needs to be time to have after-school activities. So this becomes quite a scheduling challenge.
Dr. Lawrence W. Brown is a pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Associate Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine. He represented the PA chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics on the Advisory Committee on Later School Start Times at Secondary Schools to the PA Joint State Government Commission. He has written an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about this issue featuring some of the efforts in the State of Pennsylvania to change the start times of schools throughout the state.
Here is a quote from Dr. Brown in the article:
By changing school start times, we can begin to reverse the epidemic of inadequate rest with its adverse effects on teenagers’ academic productivity, school attendance, mental health, general well-being and other negative effects. We can improve grades, lower rates of anxiety and depression, even reduce driving accidents and increase athletic performance.
If you would like to read the entire article, here is the link.
In Pennsylvania 25 schools have delayed their secondary school start times since 2011. At least 28 more are considering this change for their schools. It will be significant to monitor the impact that these changes will have on the attitude, behavior and learning capacity of students who are allowed to sleep longer each morning. As with many of our adults, sleep deprivation is a major issue in our country. It certainly is no different for our students.
We need to remember that bus schedules begin up to an hour before school opens. So a later start time can make a significant difference for our students. I appreciate that Dr. Brown is active in helping this issue come to the forefront. I think this will become a state-wide trend that could impact the environment of our junior high and high schools.