November 30, 2016
Though summer officially started only recently, my daughters have been sleeping in since school let out at the end of May. Their summer break is only eight weeks, and so their small bodies are no doubt trying to make up for lost time in dreamland. While they aren’t absolutely unbearable when I wake them on school mornings (typically around 6:30 a.m.), they are definitely more pleasant when they sleep in and wake up on their own time – much like me, come to think of it.
My 10 year-old has for years tried to convince me to let her ride the bus in the mornings, which would necessitate a 6 a.m. wake-up call, if not earlier. I have tried to convey to her the torture of getting up 30 minutes earlier, but she just doesn’t get it yet. Sleep seems to be a much-coveted perk amongst adults, and a take-it-or-leave-it interruption for kids. They haven’t yet realized how our bodies thrive on and because of rest.
My husband, who is a night owl, has always bemoaned the fact that modern society functions on a 9 to 5 schedule. He would no doubt take productivity to a whole new level if the world was run from 11 to 8 instead. I, on the other hand, am at the point in my life (and career) where there aren’t enough hours in the day. Sleep is a precious commodity, and yet one that detracts from my level of productivity. Why go to bed at 10:30 p.m. when I could put that load of laundry away that’s been staring at me for two days? Why sleep til 8 a.m. when what I really need to do is get up early and get a jumpstart on the day? Women certainly have a habit of burning the candles at both ends. It’s a habit I try to break when I see it creeping up on me. It’s certainly one that I hope to help my kids avoid.
These are the thoughts that have been top of mind ever since I read that the American Medical Association (AMA) has issued recommendations urging a later start to school so that teenagers can get more sleep. According to the AMA, middle and high schools should start at 8:30 a.m. at the earliest because research has shown that puberty is accompanied by a biological shift in circadian rhythm that contributes to later bedtimes and wake-up times in adolescents. (This research makes me think my husband may be stuck in perpetual puberty, but that is another blog for another time.)
Apparently, at least 10 percent of U.S. high schools get their start at or before 7:30 a.m. as districts try to cram as many classes, sports, and extracurriculars into the day as they can. These too-early starts can, according to the AMA, cause sleep deprivation, a growing public health issue that is affecting our adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical, and emotional distress and disorders.
Will schools comply with the AMA’s guidelines? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m going to allow my girls (and myself) the luxury of sleeping in for the next several weeks, and encourage reasonable wake-up and bedtimes when school starts back up in August. There’s no time like the present for more sleep.