Heed teenagers’ biological clocks
To the Editor:
Many school systems are considering later school start times because studies have shown that teenagers are not getting enough sleep and that this lack of sleep is preventing these high school and middle school children from reaching their full academic potential. School systems that have instituted later start times have reported that test scores rise and discipline problems fall.
Dr. Mary A. Carskadon, of Brown University, started her pioneering research on teenage sleep problems at Brown University in 1985. She has published many articles and books on teenage sleep problems and has received many awards based on this research. She is currently director of Chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital.
Dr. Carskadon has shown that lack of sleep affects teenager moods and their ability to perform in an appropriate manner. Their reactions times are reduced, which leads to problems when these teenagers are driving to school, taking tests and engaging in competitive sports. These young adults have frequent mood changes that affect their relationships with teachers and classmates. Dr. Carskadon points out that teenagers’ “biological clocks” are telling them that they should be home in bed at 7:30 a.m. and not beginning a rigorous school day of social and academic pressures.
High school and middle school students would fare better if they started their school day at 9 a.m. Elementary school students would start their school day at 8 a.m. This new time schedule would provide more adult supervision during the school day and reduce the number of one-hour delays during the winter months when there is a small amount of snow.