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Later High School Start Times Can’t Come Too Soon

sleep deprived teen drivingEighty percent of the Northshore School District parents and staff surveyed last November supported a later start time for high school.

The Northshore School Board responded by passing Resolution 714 directing a high school start time no earlier than
8:00 am to be implemented by the 2017-2018 school year.   This is great news for the graduating class of 2020.  But is sleep deprivation putting your teen at risk now?

“Lack of sleep can be fatal,” states Dr. Judith A. Owens, lead researcher on the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement School Start Times for Adolescents. “The level of impairment associated with sleep-deprived driving is equivalent to driving drunk. Would you let a kid drive who just consumed three or four beers? Well, guess what – kids do that every day.”

In addition to early morning school start times, teens often have late evening sports practices, jobs, and non-stop electronics.  Add to that a teen’s sleep-wake cycle can shift as much as two hours later simply due to biological changes during puberty.  What can be done to help?

According to Preetam Bandla, M.D., Clinical Director of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at Swedish Medical Group, strategies for promoting quality sleep are somewhat universal.  However, Dr. Bandla acknowledges adapting strategies to fit a teen’s reality can be more important than adhering to strict guidelines.   He recommends teens try the following:

Teen Friendly Tips to Promote Quality Sleep

  • Be device free 30-45 minutes prior to going to sleep
  • Put devices away, ideally out of the room, but at least not by the bed
  • Use a standard alarm clock to wake you, not your phone
  • Try not to study on the bed, ideally use the bed only for sleeping
  • Have a pre-sleep routine, you want to create a repeated pattern your body will learn to associate with going to sleep
  • Finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Get regular exercise, but try to avoid exercising at least two hours prior to bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid naps
  • Get out of bed the same time every morning, no matter how many hours you’ve slept
  • Get up by 9:00 am on the weekends.  Trying to make-up for lost sleep on the weekends can cause further problems – think perpetual jet-lag

Hopefully your teen’s high school has already heeded the medical community’s outcry for later high school start times.  If not, write a letter to your local school board and share this information with your teen and their friends.

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Autism vs. Awesome-ism©
By Dr. Melodee Loshbaugh, Co-founder & Executive Director of Brock’s Academy, Woodinville, WA

>What if we decided to just open our minds and see things from a wider, more diverse perspective?

>What if we didn't easily label and categorize people that we perceive to be different than us?

>What if we learned to think about people and differences as not right or wrong, but just different gifts?

>What if we fully believed and accepted that there is, and always has been, neurodiversity (i.e. cognitive differences) in the world?

>What if we accepted that neurodiversity is a brilliant achievement of Mother Nature?

>What if we entered each day believing each one of us is uniquely created and here to serve a higher purpose?

>What if we believed our job is to support one another in achieving that higher purpose?

>What if our differences are here to teach us appreciation, compassion, acceptance and to challenge us to stay open to all?

>What would that be like? # # #

Ryan, a 14-year old autistic student, writes:
>Meet me where I am.
>Stop trying to fix me. I don’t try to fix you.
>See my gifts, talents and strengths, not things you think I should have; see the “me” I was born with.
>Learn from me. Sit with me. Try to see the world from my perspective.
>Love me unconditionally and find ways to support me in what I came here to contribute to the world.
>Appreciate me.
>Just because I am experiencing the world in a different way than you are doesn’t mean it’s wrong, so stop judging me.
>I am me and I am beautiful.
>I am happy and I am whole. # # #

Copyright 2017—Dr. Melodee Loshbaugh
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