Monthly Archives: December 2011

Better School Start Times

Over the last several months national efforts to start school later have been growing, and it’s about time! For over 2 decades it’s been well established by medical research that there is a shift of the internal body clock during puberty. This causes teens to become sleepy later than younger children, and wake up later. This is a physiologic change, and not simply a preference for later socializing or “laziness” in the morning as was sometimes described.

Terra Snider, PhD, has created a national petition calling for legislation to prevent high schools from starting before 8am. When students go to school at times when they are most alert their performance improves, including improved test scores, decreased absenteeism, and increased graduation rates.

This issue is very close to my heart, and of utmost importance. Right out of college, in the early 1990’s, I worked in the research lab of Dr. Mary Carskadon, the leading researcher on children’s sleep/alertness patterns. After a couple years my impression was that a lot was known about this among researchers, but wasn’t being used to make children’s lives better. So although I’m interested in research, I decided to become a physician and help people with sleep problems. Now in my private practice it is striking how many adults say their sleep problems started as teens. For this reason I love to help children with sleep problems in hopes of improving their sleep before they’ve had problems for 20+ years.

Please sign this important petition, then ask your circle of friends to sign it too. http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139.   As of this writing there are 1466 signators across the nation, and growing each day.

There is a wonderful website by Dennis Nolan, JD, summarizing the impact of school start time on student’s well-being at http://schoolstarttime.org/.

If you are inspired to lend your talents to improving student’s lives in this way please let me know, or contact organizers directly.