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High school start time – Good Parenting

Headshot2011Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

High School Start Time

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I have a son who will be in high school next year. I have been dreading the 7:17 a.m. start time for years. He has special needs and resists any rushing, especially in the mornings.

Please help us urge for legislation to push back the start time for high school across Maryland. House Bill 1462 needs public support to create a Task Force to Study a Later Starting Time for Maryland Public Schools. A later start time could impact students in so many positive ways. Sleep deprived is not the way to go through adolescence.

The public can speak on this issue to state legislators in Annapolis this Friday, March 15 at 1 p.m. To RSVP and attend this event, please click here.

For those who cannot attend but who wish to let legislators know that this is an important issue, visit the Start School Later website to send an email or letter to the legislators and to share this tool with others via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Thank you,

Alarmed and Not Ready



Don’t miss last week’s column about timing between children.

Dear Alarmed,

Not only did I sign the petition, I hope to speak at the hearing.

The research on adolescent sleep needs is confirming what most of us have observed in ourselves and our children. In early adolescence –around ages 12 to 14 – the circadian rhythm changes. The body requires more sleep – about nine and a quarter hours – but the brain stays alert later into the evening. This results in drowsy mornings and “catch up” sleep on the weekend (or during first period class.)

Sleep is a critical need for optimal functioning. A good night’s sleep supports growth hormones, appetite regulation, germ fighting, and cell repair among other maintenance and enhancement functions. Impaired reaction time following sleep deprivation is a serious issue. Young drivers are more at risk for accidents when they are not well-rested.

For students, the difference between sufficient and inefficient sleep can be assessed by academic performance. What you learn today, you will review, process, and store through an overnight course of brain cell activity. Proteins released during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage enable the brain to distribute information into a storage network. Through several cycles of deep sleep and light sleep (REM), the networks between and among brain cells are strengthened by the repetition of nerve impulses along the new pathways. You will retain and be able to recall your lessons better if you “sleep on it.”

Emotional work happens during sleep as well. In the dreaming stages of sleep (REM stage), we are sorting out the ups and downs of our relationships. Just the same as other lessons, relationship lessons are experienced each day. Our brains are better able to make sense of our interactions with others – and to teach us how to best handle ourselves in each relationship – when we can maximize our sleeping time. Good decision making depends on this.

Thank you for this opportunity to rally others for this important cause. It is high time to make a change in the high school start time.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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