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Study: Most Teens Start School Too Early To Get Enough Sleep

Posted on 15 October 2015

Most teens start school too early in the morning, which deprives them of the sleep they need to learn and stay healthy, according to a new study released by the Center For Disease Control (CDC).

The American Academy of Pediatrics last year urged middle schools and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. in order to allow teens to get the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. The typical teen body wants to sleep from 12-1am to 8-9am, according to physician M. Safwan Badr, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “You’re asking kids to learn math at a time when their brains are not even awake.”

But 83% of schools do start before 8:30 a.m., according to the study released Thursday. The average start time for public middle schools, high schools and combined schools was 8:03 a.m., based on data.

School systems have debated whether to delay school start times for years. But many school officials have argued that starting class later would make it more difficult to schedule after-school sporting events, which often require teams to take buses to other parts of their districts. There is also the argument that early school start times are nothing new.

Yet studies show that today's teens are chronically sleep deprived. Two-thirds of high school students today fail to get even eight hours of sleep on school nights, according to the CDC report. Adolescents who don't get enough sleep are at higher risk for being overweight, depressed and using tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs, as well as poor academic performance.

"This is a major public health issue," said Badr. While some adults assume that sleepy teens are lazy, Badr said that adolescents' natural sleep cycles are very different than adults' and, "[teens] are waking up at a time when their brain doesn't want them to be awake."

Kids forced to wake up too early miss out on REM sleep, which is important for consolidating memories and helping people to remember what they learned that day. REM sleep tends to be concentrated in the last third of the night, or between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. for a typical teen.

It's like telling you that you have to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning and function at full capacity.

Little Leaves co-founder, pediatrician Carley Gomez-Meade notes that parents need to set firm rules about sleep, as well. "Parents should set bed times for teens, as well as rules about not using electronic devices before bed."



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