The Maryland State Medical Society recognizes the health risks of adolescent sleep deprivation and for that reason recommends Maryland adopt later start times in the state's high schools ("Md. school systems study later start times for high schools," March 11).

Studies indicate that a modest delay in school start time is associated with significant improvements in adolescent alertness, mood and health.

A 2010 study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine offered compelling evidence for the potential benefits of adjusting school schedules to adolescents' sleep needs, circadian rhythms and developmental stage.

Furthermore, delaying the start of classes would benefit not only the adolescents concerned but the public as well. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2008 concluded that moving the school start time one hour later for adolescents in a large county school district was associated with a significant drop in collision rates for high school drivers in the county.

Many factors need to be kept in mind before Maryland changes long-standing habits regarding when schools open. However, the health and well-being of present and future generations of adolescents should be of prime importance in all decisions on this issue.

Jeffrey R. Kaplan

The writer chairs the public health committee of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts