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What cures poor sleeping habits of teens? Jobs.

Esther J. Cepeda on

You want to throw a wrench into the fragile, Jenga-like schedules that parents construct so they can get their kids off to school and then get to work (and then get home and pick kids up from after-school practice, attend extracurricular events or just get dinner on the table and get the dogs walked before the whole night is over)?

Fine. Do it. Most adults want more sleep -- it truly is linked to lower body weight and better mental health -- and wish their teens would prioritize it over other concerns.

But be prepared for a lesson in a cardinal rule of economics: Outcomes are predicted based on humans making rational decisions -- and real, live humans interpret rationality in far different ways than researchers in labs.

Later start times would inevitably lead to later bed times.

How do I know? Like many public schools, my youngest son's high school has a weekly, one-hour late-start day. And much like the students at the last high school I taught with a once-a-week late-start schedule, he and they would stay up about an hour later the night before and get the same amount of sleep as on any other school night.

You know what finally cured my elder son of his poor sleeping habits? Growing up and getting a paying job that required an early start time. He figured out how to get the sleep he needed to perform his best in the morning -- as all adults eventually do.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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