Great Smiles of NJ October 2019



DROWSY DRIVING = DRUNK DRIVING Are we there yet? With two kids active in school, dance, Scouts, and baseball, my husband and I spend a lot of time in the car. I know many parents understand the divide-and-conquer routine of driving kids. At times, we can’t help but wish our kids could drive themselves! Katie, age 16, will be driving soon. Hooray! But with the freedom from shuttling the kids comes a new set of worries: well-documented in adolescent sleep and measurable in how much and when their bodies release melatonin. Starting school early for teens can wreak havoc on their biological clock, which has very negative effects on their academic, mental, and physical well-being.

conditions under which we ask our children to work — namely well-against their normal biological rhythm. PHYSICAL A sleep-deprived person has delayed reaction times and slower eye movements, which make them a severe risk on the road. One study found “the number of car crashes for teen drivers from 16–18 years of age was significantly reduced by 70% when a school shifted start times from 7:35 a.m. to 8:55 a.m.” In addition to mental health problems, if students’ sleep issues are left unchecked, they are at higher risk for substantial physical health issues down the road, including stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. There is overwhelming evidence that later start times result in healthier kids academically, physically, and mentally. But are we there yet? No. Not yet. Quality of sleep is also important. Another way to protect them is to be aware of possible sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD) to ensure good quality sleep. For teens, the usual adult signs do not apply. They are less likely to have health issues and snoring. Teens with SRBD exhibit academic performance, mental, and behavioral issues. If you suspect your teen should be screened for SRBD, please call our office to schedule an appointment. For more information, visit our website.

ACADEMIC Sleep deprivation affects academic performance. About 28% of students report falling asleep in class at least once a week, while 20% report falling asleep during homework. When a later start time is set in place, results show an improvement in math and reading scores. It also shows higher engagement and attendance in students. In one study, graduation rates rose from 81% to 97%. MENTAL Starting school later allows students the chance to get eight hours of sleep a night, significantly improving their mental well-being. A study conducted by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System revealed that when students get an adequate amount of sleep, they show an 11% decline in reports of depression . There are many studies linking mental health to adequate sleep. Depression, ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and behavior issues have been shown to improve with better sleep. The mental well-being of students has a large impact on their safety and welfare. It’s alarming that our children view drills such as shelter-in-place as commonplace as fire drills. The increase of mental health disorders in adolescents may be affected by the

Do they have the skill to drive safely?

Are they getting distracted while driving (cellphones, friends in the car)? Are there drugs or alcohol to worry about — whether consumed by kids or other drivers on the road? But did you know drowsy driving is just as bad as drunk driving ? Study after study shows this. And nowhere is it more evident than in young drivers. Not only do driving skills and experience improve with age, but during teenage years, there is a biological shift in the body’s natural rhythm — our circadian clock. Teenagers are actually biologically not yet awake when we ask them to drive to school in the morning. In fact, this is the basis for a movement to change school start times. In New Jersey, five high schools will switch their start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Many adults think teenagers go to bed late and sleep in because they are too busy staying up playing video games and talking on their phones. While this could be true, the underlying reason is because of “phase delay,” where their biological clocks shift about two hours later. This is

To your great smiles and better health,

–Dr. Michelle Wedd le

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