SLEEP GOAL: To change Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) middle and high school start times to later in the morning. To synchronize the school clocks with students’ body clocks so teens are in school during their most alert hours and can achieve their full academic potential.
Facts about adolescents and sleep:
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Adolescents on average need 9¼ hours of sleep per night, but average only 7½ hours of sleep per night (with 25 percent sleeping 6½ hours or less).
Sleep debt affects mood and the ability of teens to regulate mood. People do not “get used” to less sleep.
Sleep debt affects teens’ ability to think, perform and react appropriately and safely.
The biological clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle shifts to a later sleep and wake time as children become adolescents.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone is released later at night, making it difficult for teens to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Teens may be more “awake” at 10 p.m. than they are earlier in the day.
This same hormone makes it hard for teens to wake and be alert before 8:00 a.m.
Millions of adolescents are despondent. Some are on medication for depression.
Creativity and problem solving are directly linked to adequate sleep. (Nature, Jan. 21, 2004)
Building up a sleep debt over a matter of days can impair metabolism and disrupt hormone levels. Sleep debt can contribute to obesity. (The Lancet, October 23, 1999)
Most FCPS high schools start at 7:20 a.m. with students arriving at 7 a.m. Middle schools typically start between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. Hormones released by the adolescent brain make this a drowsy time of day. The FCPS Task Force that studied this issue in 1998 recommended that FCPS start secondary schools later.
Research shows these benefits from later secondary school start times:
Students sleep more each school night; ref-1 ; ref-2.
More students participate in sports and after-school activities.
Increased attendance rate, and students gained one hour of sleep each weeknight.
Improved behavior and attitude.
Increased continuous enrollment (improved graduation rate/fewer drop outs).
Safer driving. (Drivers age 25 or under are involved in more than one-half of fall-asleep crashes.) ref-1 ; ref-2.
Less teen depression and decreased need for medications.
Ninety-two percent of parents surveyed one year after the schedule change preferred the later start times.
It’s time to do what is best for our teenagers. Start school at a reasonable time!