St. Jude Sleep Expert Calls on Schools to Follow CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines on Start Times

(MEMPHIS, TN) – As millions of young people head back-to-school, Dr. Valerie Crabtree, Chief of Psychosocial Services at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is calling on school districts across the country to follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines on school start times.

Dr. Valerie Crabtree

Dr. Crabtree says our schools follow CDC and AAP guidelines on everything from hand washing to vaccinations, “But they aren’t following the guidelines for later school start times. We must do better about understanding the importance of sleep for our health, and it should start with our education system.” 

As the lead researcher on sleep and fatigue in children undergoing cancer treatment and brain tumor survivors, sleep is a major focus for Dr. Crabtree’s work.  She recently spoke at a TedX Talk in Memphis on how very early school start times are detrimental to the health of teenagers as well as those around them.  Dr. Crabtree underscores how insufficient sleep in kids and adults contributes to making us overweight, sick and sluggish. 

“In children and teenagers, poor or insufficient sleep is related to poorer organization, poorer memory, and academic difficulties.  And, frighteningly, chronic sleepiness is correlated to higher rates of depression and increased rates of automobile accidents,” said Dr. Valerie Crabtree, Chief of Psychosocial Services at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

However, Dr. Crabtree points out in her research that schools across the country who have delayed school start times until later have found rewards in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Teens getting more sleep;
  • Better grades;
  • Improved attendance, fewer tardies;
  • Higher graduation rates;
  • Less substance abuse and lower rates of depression;
  • Dramatic decrease in automobile accidents;

“In my work at St. Jude, I conduct research on sleep and fatigue in children undergoing treatment for cancer and in brain tumor survivors,” said Dr. Crabtree. “Sleep is the third pillar of health, along with nutrition and movement, that keeps us healthy and balanced. Yet, as a society, we really undervalue the role of sleep in keeping us healthy.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.