If I had a loonie for everytime I hollered ‘go to bed’ or ‘GET UP’ to my teenage son I’d have enough money to regularly pay for the massage therapist I need to de-stress from parenting him.

I know I’m not alone in this, but that knowledge doesn’t provide me much comfort when it’s 20 minutes before his first class and he still needs to GET UP.

Since the early 1980’s Mary Carskadon, a Brown University psychology professor, has been studying the effect of early morning schedules on teens. According to her research there’s a biological need that pushes teens to stay up later, and keep them hugging their pillow longer in the morning. It has to do with melatonin which apparently older teens get a sleep inducing blast of, about an hour later than younger adolescents.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens — between the ages of 10 and 18 — need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep each night. My teen seems to need closer to 12 hours of sleep on the weekends, and occasionally even on school days. I’m endlessly fascinated by the colds and stomach-aches that mysteriously disappear at around 3 p.m.

When he ‘approves’ this blog (my teen reviews/approves all of my blog posts that refer to him) he’ll be thrilled to find out that researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that teens who start classes a bit later may get better grades. Oy. Just what he needs – a legitimized excuse to linger in bed for another hour. Or two.
His favourite day of the week (other than Saturday and Sunday), is Wednesday, which his school has wisely designated as ‘sleep-in-day’. Classes start at 9:40, giving the teens a treasured extra hour of precious sleep mid-week.

Is this research having any effect on other school districts? The results of shifting school schedules has been studied by Kyla Walhstrom, associate director of the Center for Applied Research in Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. “Teachers are saying, ‘This is a remarkable change. The attention that is being paid in my first-hour class is so vast, I can’t get over the difference that one hour of sleep makes.'”

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