As we see some light at the end of the tunnel with the U.S. advancing the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, we also are seeing many school districts having students return to in-person or hybrid learning. The debate around what time school should start has always been a point of discussion for sleep professionals, physicians and parents.
Anyone raising children expects challenges along the way, from those sleepless first nights and toddler tantrums to the trauma of teaching teenagers to drive. But few are prepared for the recurring nightmare of waking a teenager for school at the crack of dawn.
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Recently, I have been reading the book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, Ph.D. He not only has a passion for all things sleep, but he has a superb knack for explaining the subject matter in a very friendly and easy-to-understand manner. This is a gift for a writer of science when one is trying to reach a large audience and improve health issues by explaining such sleep topics as “synaptogenesis,” which he whittles down to a definition of “the creation of millions of wiring links, or synapses between neurons” and “an overenthusiastic first pass at setting up the mainframe of a brain” of an infant.
This past week a very important position paper was released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). It recommends that school start times should begin no earlier than 8:30 AM for middle school and high school students. The paper was published in the April 15th issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.