Protect teen health, safety, learning

Dear Editor:

Teen substance abuse, car crashes, obesity, low graduation rates, and school-based violence — chronic sleep deficiency increases risk for every one of these national concerns. Because too-early middle and high school start times make adolescents especially vulnerable to sleep loss and disruption, the nonprofit Start School Later is urging everyone to take action to protect teen sleep, health, safety, and learning during National Sleep Awareness Week, March 11-17.

“Regardless of who you are, there is something you can do,” states Start School Later Communications Director Stacy Simera, who will speak on the topic of teen sleep March 16 at the National School Social Work Conference in Columbus, Ohio. “If you are a parent or a member of the community, make a phone call or send an email to your school administrators in support of change. If you are a health professional, offer to speak at school board meetings or PTA meetings on the biology of teen sleep. If you are a school administrator, form a committee to explore the recommendations made by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and other health groups about sleep-friendly school hours. And if you are a state lawmaker, introduce legislation that sets evidence-based and economically-sound parameters for school schedules in your state.”

Coaches, athletic boosters, and student athletes can also be compelling voices for sleep and sleep-friendly school start times. Hundreds of schools around the nation that have delayed bell times have thriving and successful athletic programs, and find again and again that healthy sleep boosts performance, reduces injuries, and speeds healing.

“It has been shown that high school athletes who sleep less than 8 hours are injured at a rate of 1.7 times higher than those with more sleep,” states Brendan Duffy, a sleep technologist and frequent lecturer on the role of sleep in athletic performance.

Duffy now serves as Athletics Liaison for Start School Later, and adds: “With this significant impact, it is no wonder that smart high school coaches and athletic directors are starting to ‘join the team’ in looking at ways to keep their players healthy and performing at their peak. Later school start times make sense, whether your goal is athletic or academic achievement. It comes down to this: If you sleep — you win.”

More information on the research, myths, and success stories can be found on Start School Later’s website:

Start School Later is an all-volunteer organization with 107 chapters in 27 states and Washington, DC.

Gabby Fighiroae

Chester, W.Va.

Start School Later Hancock County chapter