Letter: Let teens sleep later; they’ll feel better and perform better

Published 1:48 am Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Dr. Chris Magryta (“Teens and sleep,” in Sunday’s Post) is on point; teenagers are sleep deprived. Let’s elaborate and talk about biological clocks, obesity and school performance.

Everyone knows that teenagers are prone to want to stay up late and to sleep in. Everyone knows that obesity is epidemic. Everyone knows that Rowan County schools are underperforming. Is there a correlation?

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation in children is associated with obesity. This has been well documented in numerous studies specially over the past 10-15 years. Less than 15 percent of middle and high school students are getting the recommended 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep on school nights, as their natural tendency is to have problems falling asleep before 11 p.m., and 40 percent of U.S. high schools (Rowan County among them) start before 8 a.m. This translates to getting up at least before 6:30 a.m. to get ready and ride the bus to school. That is, at most, the opportunity for only 7-7.5 hours of sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended middle and high school classes should start no earlier than 8:30 am. The 15 percent of U.S. schools accepting these guidelines have noted improved school performance, better results on standardized tests, reduction in the incidence of being overweight, suffering depression and being involved in motor vehicle accidents.

One wonders what might happen to Rowan County performance scores and to the health and wellbeing of our city and county teenage students should the school board elect to start all middle and high school classes after 8:30 a.m. as the AAP suggests.

As new procedures are being introduced, let’s hope the school board will appreciate and consider another aspect of the maturing teenage brain. The clock’s timing is delayed and must be accommodated for healthy living and learning.

— Dr. Dennis L. Hill