Community Advocacy: Identifying Local Problems and Working Together to Find Solutions

"Protecting vulnerable populations in our town is a moral and ethical imperative."

Lorna Steele, RN, BA, PCCN

Due to pubertal sleep-wake shifts, teens are typically hard-wired to fall asleep several hours later than adults or younger children. The societal trend that took off in the 1970s and 80s toward starting school very early in the morning causes chronic sleep deprivation by cutting-short teens’ morning REM sleep.

Approximately 90% of American adolescents suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. It is associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidality, substance abuse, sports injuries, automobile accident fatalities, poorer attention and academic performance.

As a local chapter co-leader in the national nonprofit organization, Start School Later, I have engaged the local board of education, town government, local organizations, and the community to reduce the incidents of chronic adolescent sleep deprivation. We have provided substantial community education on this public health threat and have utilized a broad range of research on the topic to build pressure for the district to change entrenched schedules. I am hopeful we will see change this year.