By Briana Vannozzi
Doctor’s here at JFK Medical Center are studying adolescent sleep patterns.
“So these are the leads for EEG which is for brain activity we’re measuring,” said Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Xue Ming.
Ming records her patients to see how long and when they’re clocking their best sleep. She’s looking for three stages — shallow, deep and dream sleep — also known as REM for rapid eye movement.
“Dream sleep is essential for learning and memory consolidation,” said Ming.
It’s this very sleep science that’s at the heart of the debate to shift school start times.
“So in early childhood that REM sleep may be 3, 4, 5 o’clock in the morning, but because schedule is shifting backwards, in adolescents it happens at 6, 7, 8 o’clock in the morning,” said Ming.
And for students waking at five to start their first period at seven, they’re missing it.
“Definitely the nights when I don’t get enough sleep I feel like I can’t focus and when the teacher is giving the lesson I feel like I’m not really absorbing anything,” said Lilia Kang.
“It’s an active process not just a passive your body recuperating. “Its actually your brain is working hard to make that memory,” said Ming.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends adolescents get between eight and a-half to nine and a-half hours of sleep a night. But the reality?
“Kids stay up so late doing homework and then they have to wake up early and it’s just like, they get like five or six hours of sleep a night. And some of my friends get like three or something,” said Kang.
It’s not just that your teen and pre-teen are lazy, according to Ming. Biological rhythms cause them to go to bed and sleep much later.
“I usually got to bed at 12 because its just hard for me to fall asleep,” said Anthony Debenedetto.
“Even some of us use the excuse of going to the nurses office and sometimes she’ll let us sleep there because she knows that the sleep is the problem,” said Perez.
And she says all the electronic devices we use, aren’t helping the cause.
“When you look at a cell phone and there’s a blue light emitted from the screen and that blue light will suppress melatonin release. Melatonin is the hormone to get you ready to go to sleep,” said Ming.
When asked if school did start an hour later, would he just stay up later at night, Alex Debenedetto said, “Oh, no I’d definitely try to get more sleep.”
In the end it all comes down to the clock. Doctor’s say since we can’t change our biological schedules, the best possible solution is to change the schools’ time.