If you have teenagers, or you remember your own teenage years, you can probably recall an inclination to stay up later and sleep later in the morning. It’s not just rebellious teen behavior. It turns out that in puberty, the body’s sleep schedule naturally shifts from that of little kids, who seem to wake at the crack of dawn.
That’s a problem with modern school schedules. In many districts, in order to use fewer buses, high school will start around 7:30 a.m., with middle school after that (8:15 in my district) and then elementary school around 9. This is the exact opposite of kids’ natural sleep patterns, and the result is that many teens are chronically sleep deprived during the week, and crashing on weekends to make it up. This has all sorts of negative health implications, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools not start before 8:30 a.m.
In this episode of Best of Both Worlds, I interview Lisa Lewis, author of The Sleep Deprived Teen. She wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times several years ago that was instrumental in getting California to pass a law putting that medical guidance into practice. She talks about why this matters, and answers some of the common objections to starting later (on everything from buses to sports schedules).
My district is still one of the ones that is not “following the science” in this regard. I wake my teen up around 6:30 a.m. most days (6:15 if he needs to take the bus because there is only one adult in the house). In order to protect 8-8.5 hours to sleep, we enforce a no-device after 9 p.m. rule, and I aim to turn off the lights between 9:40 and 10 p.m. Since the middle schoolers need to get up at 7 a.m., they also have the 9 p.m. no device rule, with 10 p.m. lights out (to protect 9 hours to sleep). I’m pretty laid back on a lot of things with parenting, but this is a hard line.
When does high school start in your district? If you’ve shifted to a later schedule recently, please share how that came to happen.
In lieu of a Q&A we share a listener tip for how to keep breakfast from being a battle. This listener’s kids sit down and set a 5-day repeating menu for the next few months (Maple Monday, Toast Tuesday, Waffle Wednesday…etc.).
Please give the episode a listen, and as always, we really appreciate ratings and reviews!