I had heard that middle and high school students need more sleep time and that their circadian rhythms would have them go to bed about 11 p.m. and wake up at 8 a.m. Most of them have to be at school or on a bus by then. Consider this: a century ago schools in our country started at 9 a.m. Then, children didn’t need an alarm clock to wake up. They woke up naturally.
Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep offers scientific proof that making this change will positively affect students. That’s because the body needs NREM and REM sleep. For teens, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to mental health issues. By waking up too early, they are not getting the REM sleep they need. Simply stated, sleep is rudimentary to learning. It also keeps us healthy and safe.
There’s a national organization called Start School Later. Go to its homepage for a quick review. Check out the Wake Up Calls (Fast Facts) for more insights. You can even form a local chapter to advance the idea of starting school later. The only chapter in Oregon right now is in Bend.
Walker’s book helps explain the role of sleep in healthy lives. He also raises the issue of how we ensure our middle and high school students get the sleep they need, so they can be healthy, avoid accidents and improve their academic performance.
With later start times, car crashes involving teen drivers decreased (by 70% in Jackson Hole, Wyo.), math and reading test scores increased (Wake County, NC and The Brookings Institution), and teen substance abuse and depression decreased (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
The stats tell the story. The time to act is now!