Letter: Later school start times will protect students

To the Editor:

As an adolescent medicine specialist, I have extensively reviewed the literature on School Start Times, and provided expert testimony in a variety of venues. There are few topics in medicine with this much definitive literature. The effects of sleep deprivation on adolescents are widespread and serious, including increased anxiety and depression, worsening of ADHD symptoms, poor school performance, increased risk of car accidents, and increased incidence of sports-related injuries and delayed recovery.

For these reasons, the AAP, CDC, AMA, AASM, AACAP, and APA all recommend that adolescents start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The evidence supports that a too-early start to the school day is a critical contributor to chronic sleep deprivation among adolescents. This directly relates to adolescent biology, timing of melatonin release in the early morning hours, and delayed evening melatonin release, making it difficult for adolescents to fall asleep earlier.  

In “Saying ‘No’ to start times,” in The Ridgefield Press, 3/29/18, later start times were argued based on an online petition, a survey administered last fall, and school budget and athletic scheduling considerations. Though I completed it, I found the survey was flawed. The scenarios presented didn’t support student health across all ages, and the options presented were linked to budget estimates. There are no considerations more important than children’s health.

Seventy of my local medical colleagues and I filed a letter requesting the “Board of Education and Strategic Planning Committee investigate and prioritize for the 2017 school year viable options for a later school time as recommended by sleep experts for Ridgefield adolescents.”   To not proceed with this change would be in direct opposition to recommendations made by local health professionals and national medical organizations. I applaud and support the BOE and superintendent’s unanimous decision in October 2017 to implement later start times in 2019-2020.

Lisa S. Ipp MD

Associate Director of Adolescent Medicine
Weill Cornell Medical College