Screen time, extracurricular activities and homework are all scrutinized as factors in academic success, but one expert believes schools are looking over a much more important component: sleep. More specifically, getting more of it with later school start times.
Dr. Valerie Crabtree, Chief of Psychosocial Services at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is calling on schools to adopt later school start times as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Crabtree, who recently spoke in a Ted Talk on the subject, says U.S. schools follow recommendations on topics like vaccinations and hygiene, but not school start times and that needs to change.
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Crabtree believes that “We must do better about understanding the importance of sleep for our health, and it should start with our education system.” Later school start times have been linked to more sleep in school-aged kids, which has many health benefits.
Dr. Crabtree explains that schools which have adopted later start times have seen better grades, improved attendance, higher graduation rates and lower rates of depression.
“In my work at St. Jude, I conduct research on sleep and fatigue in children undergoing treatment for cancer and in brain tumor survivors,” said Dr. Crabtree. “Sleep is the third pillar of health, along with nutrition and movement, that keeps us healthy and balanced. Yet, as a society, we really undervalue the role of sleep in keeping us healthy.”