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The Invasion of the Body Snatchers crossed my mind last week when my High School Kid morphed into a Zombie. Though Mr. UnHollywood and I are super-annoying, ask-all-the-wrong-questions at the worst-possible-times type of parents, our kids tend to tolerate us. The new short-tempered, spacey Zombie did not.
During a walk I shared this disturbing development with fellow BH Moms and one confided that her son once fell asleep mid-bite during dinner and woke face-first in a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Another mom complained that her daughter also morphed into a zombie since she started taking Period 1 classes at 7am.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, Zombie Teens have nothing to do with mysterious pods and everything to do with sleep deprivation. In fact, two-thirds of American teens are sleep deprived. Symptoms range from crankiness to nervousness to hopelessness. My son’s teenage friends admit to daily dozing in class. Some manage to catch up on zzzs on weekends while others will steal sleep on a school night by dropping into bed, skipping homework and sleeping through until the next morning. “Even then, it’s hard to get up,” he said. “I’m usually tardy on those days.”
Teen sleep deprivation is linked to lower levels of Human Growth Hormone, which is crucial to a teen’s physical growth, brain development and healthy immune system. Seeing my kid as a likely casting candidate for an episode of The Walking Dead stopped me mid-pat on my back for raising an over-scheduled student. Sacrificing cognitive, mental and physical health is so not worth it.
Our pediatrician recommends Teens sleep for 8 ½ to 9 1/4 hours nightly. Curing shingles might be easier. Here’s what could help our droopy-eyed teens:
Later Start Times. Two Minneapolis school districts, Edina and the Minneapolis Public Schools changed class start times to an hour later (8:40am) and studied the results of over 7000 secondary students. Studies showed a reduction in dropout rates, less depression and higher grades. School districts around the US are paying close attention to the research-based data and, in some cases, are adjusting their own school schedules.
Weekly Block Schedules. U.S. News and World Report rated the best high schools in the nation based on College Readiness and Academic Performance. The two top-rated High Schools in California, Oxford Academy in Cypress and Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, follow weekly Block Schedules that call for later start times and, theoretically, fewer homework assignments per night.
Study Hall Periods. Sure, some kids will blow the time but those that don’t relish the side-affects of Zombieism will get a jump-start on homework.
Strict Sleep Schedules. Knowing what causes our son to want to bite off our heads is comforting. My High School Kid agrees that a sleep schedule is a good idea. He aims for lights out between 10:30-11pm. So far, so good.
At least for now, no one is trying to eat anyone else’s face off.