Menlo-Atherton High School wins prize for sleep program with Stanford class

- By Jennifer Welsh

William Dement

William Dement

The California School Boards Association has awarded Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton a 2009 Golden Bell Award for its comprehensive sleep education campaign. The program was developed in collaboration with well-known sleep researcher William Dement, MD, PhD, the Lowell W. and Josephine Q. Berry Professor, and Mark Rosekind, PhD, a local sleep scientist and former director of the Center for Human Sleep Research at the Stanford Sleep Disorders and Research Center.

The program was designed to raise awareness among students of the importance of sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation. Research over the past decade has indicated that teens require on average more than nine hours of sleep per night, but busy high school schedules and a naturally occurring shift in the internal biological clock of teens result in later bedtimes. According to researchers, the average adolescent lives with a significant “sleep debt” that affects safety, health, performance and mood. 

In this new program, a group of Menlo-Atherton juniors and seniors act as “sleep ambassadors,” educating their classmates about the importance of sleep. The high school students work closely with Stanford undergraduates in Dement’s popular “Sleep and Dreams” class as part of the outreach effort. Over the past year, the Teen Sleep Program expanded its focus to include advocating for a later school start time to address the sleep needs of students.  In October, the Sequoia Union High School District took up the discussion of start times and will be looking at districtwide policy for the 2010 school year.

The Golden Bell Awards program, now in its 30th year, promotes excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. The CSBA Golden Bell is not the first award to be granted the Teen Sleep Program.  In 2008, the program received an honorable mention in the National Sleep Foundation’s Healthy Sleep Community Awards.

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