I attended a very large NYC public high school. And by large I don’t mean the physical building – though that was a pretty big WPA era monolith – I mean that 2400 hundred kids were shoved into a building probably built to accommodate a population half that size. So we did what so many other NYC public schools did, and still do, we started in shifts. By my senior year, I began the school day at 7:45 and ended at around 1:00. I left the house at around 6:45 for the subway, usually in the dark, and always tired.
I think about this more and more as my daughters approach high school and will inevitably have a commute to school adding an hour or so to their morning timeline. Recently, a slew of reports have come out confirming what most parents of teens already knew – teens have different body clocks, they stay up later and need to sleep in longer. Finally, studies have proven that teens need 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep and that schools that push start times to 8:30 or later see an increase in student performance and decrease in behavior issues. But, most school districts have not heeded the message.
So, I was really interested in learning about a new special on National Geographic Channel on November 30th at 8pm, “Sleepless in America.” The special explores the importance of sleep on many facets of American Life, education being just one.
I really believe that true change in education can only come when parents band together to act on behalf of their kids and use their voting leverage and voices to affect change. Since many school districts site budget concerns as a reason for not changing the school start time it may take legislation (and support) to make districts move their start times and take this issue seriously. I’m not always sure if blanket legislation is the answer since schools have a myriad of different factions with which they must contend, and different populations that might need earlier start times to benefit parents’ situations, but it certainly seems like the reasons for making school start later far outweigh the reasons to keep too early start times. The American Association of Pediatrics is recommending no start times before 8:30 am.
Tune in to Sleepless in America on November 30th on National Geographic Channel and think about how sleep, or lack thereof, affects you and your family in ways you may never have considered, but really should.