Irene J. Hartzell, PhD – Educational Consultant

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A teen’s internal clock differs from that of children and adults  when it comes to sleep. Puberty affects their sleep cycles by delaying the time they start feeling sleepy and awaken. They need around nine hours of sleep, but due to the interference of various factors they rarely sleep that long. Interference arises from homework, extracurricular and social activities, after school jobs and electronic technology like computers, tablets, smart phones, etc.

As a result tired, sleep deprived teens aren’t alert in class and find it difficult to concentrate. Research has demonstrated that sleep plays a critical role in memory consolidation and our ability to generate innovative solutions to complex problems.

Sleep deprivation also increases the level of cortisol, the stress hormone. A tired adolescent may be grumpy, moody, insensitive, angry and impulsive.

Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics made a national recommendation that middle and high schools delay start times to combat teen sleep deprivation. After months of discussion and planning meetings four Seattle area school districts: Seattle, Bellevue, Northshore and Mercer Island have committed to revising the start times for middle and high schools to start beginning in 2016. The districts are working out the details of implementation. It will be interesting to see how the students respond to these changes.

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