Letter: Start times not about poor sleep habits

To the Editor:

Mr. & Mrs. Sementini are not the first people to suggest that parents “set a bedtime for them and enforce it, leaving all electronic devices on the kitchen table till breakfast” (letter on 2/23). At first glance, this really sounds like a simple solution to the problem of teen sleep deprivation. However, this epidemic is not just about poor sleep habits and over-scheduling. It is about human biology and a school schedule designed for adults and not children.

RHS starts at 7:25 a.m. with bus runs beginning at 6:19 a.m. This schedule is forcing kids to wake between 5:30-6 a.m. at a time when their bodies are still producing sleep hormones. In order to meet the minimum recommended hours of sleep (doctors say that teens need 8.5-9.5 hours a night), a student would have to be asleep every night by 9:30 p.m. This would be easy for an adult, but science has demonstrated that developing adolescents are wired to fall asleep around 11 p.m. Moreover, by rising early, adolescents are giving up the period of sleep most important to prepare them for learning during the day. For these reasons, sleep scientists and doctors recommend that adolescents start school after 8:30 a.m., a full 65 minutes later than the current RHS schedule, and not “approximately half an hour” later as Mr. & Mrs. Sementini stated.

As parents, I’m sure the Sementinis remember how sleep deprivation looks and feels: memory deficits, irritability, anxiety and depression, decreased ability to handle complex tasks (source: National Sleep Foundation). I would encourage them to watch the Project Resilience video of their recent sleep program where doctors discuss sleep architecture and its relation to start times for adolescents, as well as sleep hygiene, and reconsider their position for the overall health and well-being of their grandchildren and all Ridgefield children.   

Colleen Broderick