Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Denise RQ What if I told you
there was a virus going around that the majority of our children
were at risk for catching? What if I told you this virus
causes memory problems, and increased risk
for depression and diabetes? Worse yet, what if I told you
that scientists know both the cause
and the cure for this virus, but as a society we’re doing
virtually nothing to stop its progression? Well this epidemic is real, and 2/3 of our children
are suffering from it. Only it’s not a virus;
it’s sleep deprivation. So sleep might not be something
you’ve gotten a lot of talk to, right? You just put your head on the pillow, and then you wake up
when the alarm clock tells you. But sleep is so much more than that. And we can’t really dialogue
about transforming education without first considering
how the brain transforms itself, because that’s what learning is:
brain transformation. Sleep is a requirement of the brain. Without it, we die. Without enough of it, we suffer. During sleep, the brain
rids itself of cellular waste, strengthens synaptic connections,
consolidates memories. In fact, if you spend your day
learning new guitar chords, at night, areas of your right motor cortex
responsible for your left fingers actually sleep deeper. So sleep, it’s not wasted time,
it’s sacred time. Every day, when our brains are busy
making the changes they need for us to learn, to survive,
for our children to grow and thrive. I study sleep in college students. Just like the rest of us,
when they don’t get the sleep they need, their bodies go into fight or flight mode. Stress hormones
course through their arteries; their blood pressure
and blood sugar spike; they seek out junk food; their frontal lobes
become inefficient at problem solving; their limbic systems,
highly emotionally reactive. In fact, we’ve shown
that in college students, bad sleep is a better predictor of who will and who won’t
succeed academically than is binge drinking and marijuana use. Let’s admit it, as a society,
we’re bad at sleeping. We don’t prioritize it. We certainly don’t model
good behaviors for our children. No surprise then, that United States
school children rank first among nations in academic problems
directly attributable to sleepiness. The 2014 Sleep in America poll
found that fewer than one in five teens is getting the minimum amount
of recommended sleep. So how much is that? In teens, that’s about nine hours a night,
and younger kids, at least ten. But here’s an easier way to tell
whether or not you or your children are getting enough sleep. Do they need an alarm clock to wake up? If so, they’re not getting enough sleep. So what can we do to help
our children get better sleep? Three suggestions: first, start schools later. Right now, the earliest
scheduled bus stop is 5:40 a.m. The School Start Later research movement
has shown if you delay the time of day high schools start,
it’s a win-win situation. Kids get more sleep;
attendance rates go up; ACT scores rise;
car accidents by teen drivers plummets. That’s why the American
Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high schools start
no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Should we really be sacrificing children’s
health for transportation savings? Second, remember
that we are sun-seeking creatures. Light is the primary signal the brain uses
to establish sleep-wakefulness rhythms. And this circuitry
is millions of years old. People of all ages learn better,
feel better, sleep better when they get plenty
of bright light exposure during the day. And yet, we’re sending our children
to spend their days like moles in windowless rooms and dark classrooms. So let’s apply the architectural
principle of daylighting so that children can actually see
the light of day when they’re learning. A study of over 21,000
elementary school students found that children with the most
natural light in their classrooms progressed 20% faster in one year
in reading and math than children from the same schools
with the least amount of light. Third, let’s make sleep
a public health campaign. If we got the lead out of paint,
teens out of tanning beds, parents on the lookout for cyber-bullies, can’t we educate parents and teachers
about the importance of setting bedtimes? Keeping electronics out of the bedrooms? Keeping energy drinks away from children? Right now, sleep isn’t
even on parents’ radar as a health concern to be worried about. Even though half of the things
they are worried about are directly and profoundly
impacted by poor sleep. Without a public health campaign, parents and teachers might not realize
that falling asleep in class is not a choice or a sign of laziness, but an inevitable consequence
of a brain so tired, so exhausted, so low on nourishment that it takes away
the keys to consciousness. It took us a while,
but we finally realized that hungry children don’t learn well so we brought free and reduced lunch
programs to schools. It’s time we realize,
sleepy children don’t learn well either. This traditional Setswana greeting
translates to, “Hello! How did you wake up?” Can you imagine
if we asked that of our children? Can you imagine if we really
paid attention to their answers? Thank you. Sleep long. Sleep well. (Applause)