Letter: Medicine is sure on start times

To the Editor:

As an adolescent medicine specialist, I have extensively reviewed the literature on school start times, and followed along with public opinion. It is important for me, as a healthcare provider, to state that 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, obesity, 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 adolescents start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. These esteemed medical societies are responsible for vetting scientific data to put forth recommendations to benefit patients.

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. The timing of melatonin release in the early morning hours, and delayed evening melatonin release makes it difficult for adolescents to fall asleep earlier.

As a parent of a student-athlete who plays two varsity sports, I understand the concerns about how sports may be impacted by healthy start times. Fortunately, data show healthy start times are beneficial to student-athletes and are associated with fewer injuries and quicker recovery from injury when injury does occur.

We have also seen that scheduling concerns have been largely unfounded in districts that have implemented healthy start times. Ultimately, there are no considerations more important than children’s health.

I applaud and support the BOE’s unanimous decision in October 2017 to implement later start times in 2019-2020. This change aligns with recommendations made by 70-plus local health professionals and national medical organizations, and demonstrates a commitment to student well-being, as outlined in the BOE mission statement.  

Lisa S. Ipp, M.D.

Ridgefield, Dec. 3

(Editor’s note: Dr. Ipp is the Associate Director of Adolescent Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Chief of Pediatric Medicine Hospital for Special Surgery.)