Editorial: Let teenagers sleep

Editorial: Let teenagers sleep

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Parents across the North Shore are hoping their teenagers will soon get to sleep in — even during the school year.

Many studies now point to the benefits of teenagers starting high school later in the day, and some residents are delving into the research and discussing the issue with other parents.

It may take work, but we think the idea is important and we hope district officials will keep their minds open.

Studies have shown that teenagers do better when their first class starts after 8:30 a.m. Start times in our coverage area can vary with East Setauket’s Ward Melville High School’s first class bell ringing at 7:05 a.m. Many other high schools start well before 8 a.m.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day for teens “to promote optimal health.” The reason why many teenagers don’t get the recommended hours of sleep each night may have nothing to do with tons of homework, juggling activities and spending time on electronic devices. It may just be that children tend to fall asleep a few hours later when they become teenagers due to biological changes. The outcome when you add early school start times to late nights? Many teenagers walk around like zombies, constantly sleep deprived.

Insufficient sleep, which can cause drowsiness and impaired memory, can affect an adolescent’s academic and athletic success, as well as health and safety. Scientists have found that over the long haul, sleep deprivation in one’s younger years can lead to more severe problems in the future, including obesity and engaging in risky behaviors such as drinking and drug use.

It’s an invalid excuse to say kids need to get used to waking up early to prepare for the workforce. It’s equally detrimental to call out young people for spending too much time up late. The science says these rhythms are to be expected.

In the past, it was considered beneficial for high schoolers to come home after school earlier, so they could babysit their younger siblings. Today, most high school students are involved in sports and clubs, and aren’t available to help out with this task. And with the existence of after-school programs, there are many opportunities to make life easier for working parents.

An earlier morning for elementary students could also prove beneficial to working parents, who need to get kids on the bus before work. Furthermore, teenagers are able to get to the bus stop without the supervision of their mothers or fathers.

While it may be true that a change in start times can create issues when it comes to scheduling sports games, schools start at different time all across the leagues. Some student-athletes are already waiting around for games to start after the last bell rings. The most important thing, beyond both sports and academics, is a kid’s mental health and well-being.

While it may not be possible for all high schools to start at the same time to create the perfect scenario for sporting events, it is feasible for each district to listen to parents and, more importantly, find a start time that will help their students reach the fullest potential.

The ways of the past don’t always pave the way to future success.