A prestigious group of experts recently released a report with far-reaching implications for America — and it had nothing to do with the Great Wall of Mexico, United Airlines or Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. They said kids need to start school later because they’re not getting enough sleep.
As Ben Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes teenagers healthy, wealthy and rambunctious.” I won’t bore you with tall tales like, “When I was a boy growing up in the backwoods of Pine Rock Park, we got up at 4:30 in the morning and had to walk two-and-a-half hours to school, uphill both ways.”
Actually, there’s some truth to that. I’m up at 4:30 a.m. and have a two-and-a-half hour commute into Manhattan, which embezzles five hours of my life each day. That’s time I could use more profitably watching Dancing With the Stars or stalking the yellow-bellied sapsucker … but back to the plight of America’s school kids.
The Academy of Sleep Medicine said that to ensure students 13 to 18 years old get 8 to 10 hours of sleep, schools should not start earlier than 8:30. Dr. Nathaniel Watson, a sleep specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues wrote a paper that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which linked poor sleeping habits to obesity, heart disease, poor academic performance and athletic injuries.
I’m an expert in this area with extensive experience rustling kids out of bed in the morning — and afternoon. Most of the time, our four daughters resisted getting up, but I forced them to because we had only one bathroom and had to adhere to a strict morning schedule. Everyone had precisely 15 minutes for personal grooming. (I confess I took 25 minutes because I had to shave.) And I’m proud to say our on-time performance was better than Metro-North’s.
In the spirit of innovative thinking that made Apple great, I can solve this national crisis. Starting school later isn’t the solution. That will only lead to a national productivity crisis because school buses will be disrupting morning rush-hour traffic, and none of us will be able to get to work on time because we’ll be stuck behind blinking red lights. As a result, the GDP will plummet, along with the dollar.
However, young people could get MORE THAN 8 to 10 hours of sleep if their parents took away their cell phones at bedtime. (Is that screaming I hear?) I know this is a revolutionary, subversive and un-American suggestion that might get me sued by the ACLU and condemned by Ann Coulter, but I have science on my side.
Teenagers are so addicted to their smartphones they take them to bed so they can text-message during the night. Research by JFK Medical Center concluded young people send about 34 messages for up to four hours after they go to bed. Equally troubling, they waste more than seven hours a day using electronic media, which research has shown causes behavior, memory and study problems.
Another terrifying trend called “sleep texting” is sweeping the nation. Teenagers are sending text-messages at night that they DON’T REMEMBER in the morning. Next thing you know, they’ll be hacking Wells Fargo or buying tickets for United flights to Puerto Vallarta … and have no recollection of what they did.
After considerable thought, I’ve developed a solution, which I plan to submit to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Congress and Mad Magazine. Here is my recommendation: School districts should be required by law to schedule nap-time. This system works well in preschool and can be easily extended to high school, not to mention colleges. If Yale and Brown can create “safe spaces,” why not “nap spaces”? Students and teachers could bring their mats to class and get a good 45 minutes of shut-eye during the day, which will enable them to party all night long.
Lack of sleep is a national epidemic that also plagues adults, most of whom lie awake staring at the ceiling wondering whether they’re going to have a jobs in the morning or whether they’ll be replaced by a robot sold on Amazon. By the time they actually get to work, they’re too tired to be productive. I know because every morning, almost two-thirds of the commuters in the quiet car are asleep when we pull into Grand Central and have to be rousted from their seats.
We all need more sleep. We can’t make America great again if the U.S. workforce is snoozing on the job … and if our future leaders are asleep in the classroom. Wake up. Shoot some spitballs.