Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Oh darling. Oh sweetheart. Get out of bed. MOVE YOUR ASS! Sweetie.--OK, here's the picture. My daughter and I have moved to Fairbanks and she has begun school. It is now mid-winter in interior Alaska. It is 6:30 in the morning, it is pitch dark and going to stay pitch dark for all but an hour or two. The temperature has fallen to minus 40. I think there is ice fog brewing. I have to get a 14-year-old girl up for school.
Good luck, you may say, and good luck I will need. But, I have a legitimate complaint that the parents of every teenager shares, even those who are smart enough to avoid the sub-Arctic. Teenagers are not morning creatures. Schools that start early in the morning are doing them no favor and making hard for the schools to fulfill their tasks. Even scientists say so. Here. Here. And here, among other places.
Study after study has shown that teenagers who get more sleep because school start later in the day, do better than those who do not. Their growing, changing bodies need sleep a lot more than do the teachers. In this case its biology not behavioral psychology that needs to be paid attention to.
One study published by the American Thoracic Society of 280 high school students found that most are not getting enough sleep and that more sleep would produce better grades. The kids went to Harriton High outside of Philadelphia and the study was done by the University of Pennsylvania's Richard Schwab, who has a personal stake in the findings: his daughter was one of the subjects. He noted--he couldn't help it, I promise you--how bloody hard it is to get her up in the morning. Since teens gradually change their internal clocks to stay up later, many of these kids were not getting to sleep until 1 or 2 in the morning and getting 6-1/2 to 7 hours of sleep and sometimes less. They need more. Notice how late they sleep on weekends.
But high schools usually start even earlier than elementary schools for some reason. My daughter's new school in Fairbanks, starts a half hour earlier than the day school she goes to in Baltimore. Why? It should be the reverse.
Mary Carskadon at Brown found the same thing. She found that teenagers are out of it in the morning, simply unplugged. No kidding! By studying teen saliva (now there's a thought) she found that melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) levels rise later at night for teenagers than they do for adults or children and stays higher throughout the morning. Sleep deprivation affects mood, performance, attention, behavior and learning, according to Stephen Sheldon at Northwestern.
And it makes them real sweet too, doesn't it?