According to a report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending later start times for schools to combat teen sleep deprivation. The article by Deborah Netburn (reprinted in the Portland Press Herald) declared that the AAP believes chronic sleepiness to be a public health issue in a policy statement Monday.
To help fix the problem, the organization called for middle and high schools to push back start times 30 minutes to an hour to allow students to get more rest.
“A substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss,” the organization said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students.”
Sleep deprivation in teenagers is widespread. Eighty-seven percent of high school students in the U.S. are getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep, and high school seniors get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, on average, the AAP says.
“In addition, 28 percent of high school students report falling asleep at school at least once a week, while 1 in 5 say they fall asleep doing homework with similar frequency,” writes Netburn. “The exhaustion has serious consequences. The AAP reports that the average teenager in the U.S. regularly experiences levels of sleepiness similar to people with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.”
As of the 2011-12 school year, 43 percent of U.S. public high schools had a start time before 8 a.m.
“When high school classes begin early in the morning, we ask teens to shine when their biological clock tells them to sleep,” said Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.