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

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