To the editor:
As a physician who does take care of “sleepy” teens and a mother of a sleepy teen I would like to respond to Mr. Fuller’s flippant attitude towards the medical literature and sleep science expressed in his recent editorial (Jan 10).
There seems to be a national trend in this country (highlighted by the Trump administration) of people dismissing science. As a clinician whose daily decision-making process is driven by science, this is very disturbing to me. Of course as parents we should set bedtimes and limit devices (part of what we physicians call sleep hygiene) but even the best parent cannot change circadian physiology.
The fact is, for the great majority of teenagers, their circadian rhythms push back about 15 minutes per year of adolescence which drives them to stay up later and sleep later. Combining this biological reality with pre-8:30 school start times is a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation and its many negative psychological, physical and academic effects on our teenage kids.
Anyone with an opinion in this debate over optimal school start times should familiarize themselves with the scientific research that is driving the push for later start times. A good place to start is the position paper of the American Academy of Pediatrics on the subject:
To call the delayed school start times initiative a “half-baked ruse” based on “selective research” is simply being ignorant of the preponderance of scientific data supporting it. (Think climate change).
To dismiss this as “Sleepy Science” is demeaning to our children’s health and wellness.
To ignore the data behind this imitative and the impressive benefits documented by the many school districts that have already done this (800 and counting) is negligent and short-sighted.
To attack respectful civil servants and concerned parents like Scott Douglas for his dedicated work on this subject is inappropriate and insulting.
We can debate the logistics of implementation (the costs, the bus schedules, the impact on athletic and elementary school schedules) but let’s not question the science. And let’s not lose our sense of decency in the process.
Carla Martin, MD