Thursday, August 20, 2015
Doctor's Perspective
School starts too early for teens

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
As we listen to political debates, we hear about the Federal government's involvement in local schools. The argument is that the states and local school systems should dictate what happens at a local level. The question that does not come up is what happens if the local school districts do it wrong? What action can parents take to make sure the School Board does it correctly? What action can parents take to make sure the school districts do it correctly? In 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement about school start times. The recommendation was that middle school and high school classes do not begin until 8:30 a.m. That recommendation was based upon the habits of this group of children and young adults. They tend to go to bed later and they tend to sleep later. This is their normal behavior. The AAP recommendation was based upon the fact that schools need to create the optimal learning environment. That cannot happen if the student is tired all day long. Now the CDC has come out with a study that shows that only 20% of schools in the US begin classes at or after 8:30 a.m. That means that the other 80% have students who may be too tired to learn. It is a fact that poor academic performance is the result of insufficient sleep. The state with the highest average SAT scores in the nation is North Dakota. Of interest is the fact that North Dakota has over 75% of its schools beginning class at or after 8:30 a.m. That could be just coincidence, however, one wonders whether it means that we are gambling with the performance of our teenagers. We also know that insufficient sleep is linked to obesity. This is due to a number of factors. People who sleep less have increased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Higher levels result in increased hunger and appetite. In addition, sleep loss also interferes with sugar metabolism in the body which also leads to obesity. Rates for smoking, alcohol use and drug abuse all increase as sleep deprivation occurs. The theory is that lack of sleep affects mood. The result is that individuals will seek to self medicate to improve their mood. Some schools have indicated that starting school earlier would result in problems with the after school activities schedule. That sounds more like a tail wagging the dog argument. Sleep deprivation in adolescents can have some pretty serious side effects. The people in the best position to address this are parents. They know if their children are not getting enough sleep. Simply telling a non-tired person to go to sleep is not going to help. There is not a rule for medication to help this group get to sleep. If their children are missing sleep time, parents need to let the local school authorities know that there is a problem. We can continue doing things the "way we've always done it," but that does not make it right. Nor does it make it healthy.

Laurel Library hosts dementia-related behavior program Laurel Public Library in cooperation with the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, will provide an educational session on dementia-related behavior at the Laurel Public Library at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 3, in the Carpenter Community Room. The Alzheimer's Association will discuss typical triggers that initiate dementia-like behavior. Attendees will learn the process of recognizing and addressing these behaviors. Participants will be able to ask questions. Registration is required. Attendees should register by calling 800-272-3900 or e-mailing, no later than Aug. 27. For more information, email Gregg McCullough at or call 875-3184.

Annual Nanticoke benefit golf tournament set for Sept. 17-18 On Thursday, Sept. 17 and Friday, Sept. 18 over 200 golfers will take to the course at Heritage Shores Club in Bridgeville to show their support for The Campaign for Nanticoke - Emergency Department. This project will enable Nanticoke Health Services to serve patients faster and more efficiently, and accommodate anticipated growth in patient volume in the immediate future. Pink golf ball shaped signs, which are placed throughout the course, are available for a donation of $25 to honor, memorialize or celebrate a loved one. To learn more, visit, call the Nanticoke Health Services Foundation at 536-5393, or email

Autism Delaware's Blue Jean Ball fundraiser is Sept. 26 Tickets are available and sponsors are needed for Autism Delaware's 2015 Blue Jean Ball. The annual fundraiser takes place on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 6-11 p.m. at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. Tickets are $85 per person if purchased by Sept. 11; from Sept. 12 until sold out, tickets are $100 per person.

Proceeds benefit Autism Delaware's statewide programs and services. More information about the Blue Jean Ball is available at

Grief Support Group Delaware Hospice is offering a six week grief support group, Grief 101: Healing After the Death of a Loved One, for individuals who have lost a loved one. The group offers an opportunity to share and talk to others who are on a similar grief journey. Education is provided on various topics including coping methods. The group will meet on Mondays from 5-6:30 p.m. on Sept. 14-Oct. 26. The group will not meet on Oct. 12. To register or learn about other support groups at Delaware Hospice, contact Bereavement Counselor, Midge DiNatale, BA, GC-C at 856-7717 ext. 4120 or email

Menard named CSNN Nanticoke Health Services welcomes Fredeline Menard, MBA, RN, to the position of Cancer Screening Nurse Navigator (CSNN) at Nanticoke Cancer Care Services. As CSNN, Menard advocates for patients and providers by determining and meeting cancer screening needs and serves as a community ambassador for underserved communities within Sussex County. She also volunteers for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. Menard received her bachelor of science in nursing and her MBA with a concentration in healthcare management from Wilmington University in New Castle. She received her RN diploma and several certifications from Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia, Pa. Menard is licensed in Delaware and Pennsylvania and is a member of the Oncology Nursing Society.

Better Breathers Club Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Better Breathers Club on the third Monday of each month from 2-3 p.m. This free support group is open to anyone affected by a chronic lung disease including relatives and caregivers. The group's first meeting will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, in the Medical Staff Conference Room. Backed by the American Lung Association, the club offers a venue for participants to learn from featured speakers and educational materials, socialize with others affected by a chronic lung disease, and practice skills that will help them better manage their condition and improve their quality of life. Refreshments will be provided and registration is required. For more information and to register, call 629-6611, ext. 1010.

Lunch Bunch Lecture "Mindfulness: Reducing Stress & Staying Open in the Moment" will be the topic of Delaware Hospice's next Lunch Bunch Lecture with Dr. Judy Pierson on Friday, Sept. 4 at Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. Lunch Bunch Lectures are organized to help members of the community re-invest in life and are open to the public. Lunch is from noon to 12:30 p.m. and is $5 per person. The presentation is from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and is free of charge. Mindfulness has been defined as "a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience." Mindfulness can be used as a form of meditation and stress reduction. It teaches you how to be fully present in any given moment and provides greater mental clarity and deep contentment. Registration is required as seating capacity is limited. Register by Thursday, Sept. 3, by contacting Michele August at 746-4503 or

DBCC plans fundraiser The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) is preparing for the Sixth Annual "Monster Miles for a Cause" Walk at Dover International Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 17. The un-timed walk, which takes place during breast cancer awareness month, is a family friendly event for supporters to step onto the NASCAR track to benefit the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. Attendees are encouraged to walk in honor or in memory of someone in their life that has been impacted by breast cancer. The event will include food, vendors, and team prizes. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. and the walk steps off at 10 a.m. To register online, visit Monster Miles will be held rain or shine and costs $25 per individual in advance and $30 for day-of registration. Individuals can also participate as part of a team. Children 10 and under can walk for free with an adult. Sponsorship opportunities are available and those who cannot attend can register as "Sleepwalkers" to make a donation. For more information, contact Michelle Marshall, DBCC event coordinator, at 302-593-9924 or