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School Schedules For Teens Should Be Moved, Sleep Experts Say

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Sleepy teenagers make for sleepy students, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (ASSM) agrees.

The agency now recommends that students in middle and high schools should start classes from 8:30 in the morning onwards, and no earlier, in order for them to get enough sleep during the week. This later schedule would help cut down on tardiness, improve overall attendance, and increase driving safety. It would also help ensure that students are more alert and receptive to learning throughout the day, according to CBS News.

Dr. Nathaniel Watson, author of the new guidelines and former ASSM president, said in a statement,

Early school start times make it difficult for adolescents to get sufficient sleep on school nights, and chronic sleep loss among teens is associated with a host of problems, including poor school performance, increased depressive symptoms, and motor vehicle accidents.

He added, “Starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later gives teens a better opportunity to get the sufficient sleep they need to learn and function at their highest level.”

The ASSM recommendations for sleep are eight to 10 hours a night for adolescents ages 13 to 18. However, most American teenagers don’t get that much sleep, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Over two-thirds of high school students only get up to seven hours of sleep on school nights.

Chronic sleep loss may result in weight gain, worse school performance, poor heart health, depression, risky behavior and sports-related injuries, the ASSM said. Sleepy teens are also more likely to be involved in car crashes.

Studies have shown that a one-hour delay on school days can result in as much as a 16.5% drop in vehicular accidents. Other benefits of later class times, and more sleep, include more participation in school activities, fewer signs of depression, reduced irritability and quicker reaction times among teens.

The new guidelines were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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