COMMENTARY: The harmful results of adolescent sleep deprivation

For over two decades, medical research findings have thoroughly informed us about the many serious harmful health and school effects of sleep deprivation on our state’s adolescent students in middle and high schools.

This research determined that these teenagers needed a minimum of nine hours of sleep each school night. This lack of sleep causes many harmful short- and long-term health and school problems. The key reason for this unhealthy sleep deprivation is their too-early school start time. The sensible, no-cost, doable solution to this serious health and school problem is simply to have a later school start time for our adolescent students, as many school districts in our nation have accomplished.

Many research reports are readily available to understand this serious problem we are not even talking about. These are available on the Internet by typing “Adolescent Sleep Deprivation” into the search window. Organizations who have reports explaining these harmful adolescent health and school problems caused by sleep deprivation and a no-brainer, no-cost simple solution for this widespread problem include the following: American Academy of Pediatrics; National Association of School Psychologists; Stanford University Medical School; and the National Sleep Foundation.

Book dealers like have inexpensive publications that explain this harmful problem and doable, no-cost solution of simply having a later school start time for these adolescent students.

These medical research findings inform us of the many short- and long-term, specific, harmful health and school effects of adolescents’ sleep deprivation. Results show that no matter what time our adolescents in middle and high schools go to bed, they don’t fall asleep until 11 p.m.

They need at least nine hours of sleep every school night. Our state and local education decision-makers in parochial, private and public schools for our adolescents need to arrange for the 1916-17 school year a school start time of 9 a.m. to ensure these students get needed sleep time.

Our younger elementary-school students get to sleep much earlier, and an earlier school start time for them would enable adequate, healthy sleep time for all.

This research informs us those school districts in our nation that used this medical research information and provided a proper, later school start time for all adolescent students greatly reduced or eliminated the many harmful health and school problems caused by adolescent sleep deprivation. Schools that changed to a later school start time found this schedule did not interfere with these adolescents’ participation in extracurricular activities such as athletic sports or part-time jobs.

Even as taxpayers, all should support this research-proven reform that will provide more program- and cost-effective public schools. But parents and other relatives of our Delaware adolescent students should especially become competently informed on this serious issue and insist our state and local education decision-makers make this later adolescent-school-start-time change beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Floyd E. McDowell Sr. of Bear is chair of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Delaware Citizens’ Information and Action Forum and its website. He can be reached at 832-2799 or via email at

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