To say that I am a sleep advocate is an understatement. Parents in Brunswick will tell you that regardless whether their child had a broken arm or a migraine headache, at some point in the office visit, I would recommend more sleep.

However, for several reasons, I believe that the bill mandating later high school start times currently being considered by the Maine Legislature is poorly conceived, although well-intentioned.

n Over the last 30 years, numerous school departments across the country have experimented with later start times. Although some schools have observed some minimal improvement in a few parameters, the results have not been impressive – certainly not on an order of magnitude that would warrant the economic and social upheaval that the schedule changes require.

n Second, allowing children to sleep later in the morning is addressing only one end of the candle. If parents fail to set and enforce healthy bedtimes and restrictions on evening use of electronics, children will continue to arrive at school too tired to learn.

In fact, later start times without other common-sense parental restrictions will enable even less healthy sleep habits. There is ample evidence that efforts to legislate good parenting is often doomed to failure.

n Maine communities differ so widely in their geography and mix of job schedules that decisions about start times should be made at a local level to minimize economic disruption. If a town or city decides to institute later school start times, it should be done as a community-wide initiative that addresses sleep hygiene for the entire family.

We are allowing our children to burn their candles at both ends. A state mandate for later start times is not the answer.

Will Wilkoff, M.D.

author, “Is My Child Overtired?”