Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine
Winter 2017-18

Sleep SIG: Promoting Students’ Sleep and Pre-Conference Course on Using Actigraphs

Brian D. Gonzalez, PhD and Natasha J. Williams, EdD, MPH; Sleep Special Interest Group (SIG) Co-Chairs

Policy Brief on School Start Times

The Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) recently released a policy brief urging policymakers to set middle and high school start times to no earlier than 8:30 AM. The brief is grounded in research showing that biological mechanisms regulating sleep change in adolescence resulting in a later natural sleep time for teenagers. Despite this growing body of empirical evidence, most schools today start at a time that’s too early. As a result, most adolescents are not getting the recommended nine to 10 hours of sleep at night and are sleepy during the school day.

Starting school at or after 8:30 AM has been associated with improvements in numerous academic and health outcomes. For example, teenagers with later school start times show better alertness, mood, attendance, and academic achievement compared to those with an earlier school start time. Some barriers should be noted. Changing school start times can be disruptive to families’ schedules, can impact students’ ability to participate in after-school activities, and can cause logistical challenges for school districts, including transportation. Fortunately, these barriers are surmountable, and seem minor in comparison to the overwhelming benefits to students’ academic success and health.

We are hopeful that the policy brief will prompt SBM members to contact their local school boards and federal representatives to develop a strategy to enact this policy that would benefit their community. In conversations with policymakers, it may be helpful to note the endorsement of several key stakeholders, including parents’ groups, sleep-focused scientific societies, the National Parent Teacher Association, and the National Education Association, a national teacher’s union with over 3 million members.

SBM 2018 Annual Meeting Events

We are excited about the caliber of oral and poster presentations on the topic of sleep and circadian health that will be presented at the Annual Meeting. The Sleep SIG will also sponsor a pre-conference course titled “Actigraphy for Sleep and Physical Activity Research: Nuts & Bolts.” This course is intended to provide a how-to for researchers interested in using actigraphs (accelerometers) to study sleep, circadian rhythms, or physical activity. We plan to discuss the entire process, beginning with how to choose a device all the way through a live demonstration of how to interpret actigraphy data. We encourage you to sign up during Annual Meeting registration if you’re interested. Lastly, the SIG will be hosting a business meeting and has plans in the works for an exciting social event. Please stay tuned for additional details in an e-mail to the Sleep SIG listserv. As a reminder, if you haven’t already, please select the “sleep” SIG in your registration and consider joining the Sleep SIG by selecting it in your member profile.