It's Time to Wake Up and Help Our Sleep-Deprived Students

By Dailey, Ruth Ann | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

It's Time to Wake Up and Help Our Sleep-Deprived Students


Dailey, Ruth Ann, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Parents, do you remember when it was so hard to wake your teenagers each morning that you were sure your next step would involve dynamite?

Or maybe you're in that phase of life right now. My condolences.

There must be a lot of you out there, because it has been significant news lately that a few local school districts are exploring how they could acknowledge biological realities and delay start times for our sleep-starved teens.

I'd say "Finally!" but I don't want to jinx anything.

I've been championing this idea on and off for at least a decade, but that's no boast: It was my mother, in the late 1970s, who first opened my bleary eyes to this problem.

Or, rather, she didn't. She let my eyes stay shut - week after week, my junior and senior years. With her blessing, I must have missed the first two hours of school a few times a month, whenever the workload of piano competitions, English lit, Russian history and trigonometry kept me up till the wee hours and unready for first period at 7:25 a.m.

Those rough days - my constant anxiety and my mother's quiet wisdom - came rushing back a decade ago when my own kids began sleep-walking through high school, inspiring me to write some heartfelt columns.

But a Nov. 17, 2017, article in the Post-Gazette, the first I'd encountered anywhere in quite a while, reported "skeptical parents" pushing back against the North Allegheny district's initial discussions.

Another on Dec. 3, in the Sunday PG's Region section, discussed the possibility of later start times for high school in the context of stress reduction and suicide prevention policies.

And last week came word that North Allegheny, Fox Chapel and Hampton are all considering this change, "prompted by studies showing that teenagers who get more sleep are healthier and perform better in school."

Quaker Valley already beat these schools to it, pushing back high school's first period by 15 minutes this year. I hope that's just the first of four incremental adjustments, since an extra quarter-hour won't do much to help teens whose body clocks make them night owls.

Parents' concerns are legitimate, though, and have to be addressed. What about the safety of the younger students who will now get the early start time, often waiting for the bus in the dark?

How late will athletic practices now run? …

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