Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Later school start times long overdue
Florida legislators should be applauded for their legislation to delay school start times. As a psychologist specializing in insomnia and sleep disorders, the research literature is very clear on the benefits.
We’re experiencing an epidemic of sleep deprivation among teenagers. Those with decreased sleep often have reduced concentration, memory and problem-solving abilities, resulting in poor academic performance.
Without the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep, the risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts is significantly higher.
The risk is even higher for low-income and minority students. There is also an increased risk of alcohol and substance abuse. Sleep loss for teens results in higher probability of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disorders.
Owing to biological factors, we can’t simply ask teens to go to bed earlier. Physiologically, they can’t. Getting more REM sleep in the morning aligns with adolescent circadian rhythms and produces more restful, restorative sleep.
When delayed school start times were implemented in other areas, positive change resulted. Tardiness went down, attendance increased, dropout rates declined and graduation rates improved. Disadvantaged and minority students did better. With better sleep, teens take fewer risks and have fewer auto accidents. Some studies found a reduction in auto crashes by 60%. A RAND Corporation study projected that the economic benefits outweigh costs associated with later school times.
Delaying start times to 8:30 a.m. in high school is a wise decision that benefits students academically and improves their physical and mental health. The community as a whole benefits.
Bruce D. Forman, Ph.D., Plantation