NEW YORK (MainStreet) The battle to get your kid out of bed and ready for school may be coming to an end. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it's just not worth it and, in a policy statement issued today, adds that dragging teens out of bed early may actually be hazardous to their health.
The nonprofit organization, comprised of 62,000 physicians, says studies show "that adolescents who don't get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance."
The AAP is recommending middle and high schools delay the beginning of classes until 8:30 a.m. or later.
"Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common and easily fixable public health issues in the U.S. today," said pediatrician Judith Owens, MD, lead author of the policy statement. "The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life. Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn."
Changing school schedules will help conform to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, the AAP says.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says it's natural for teens to be unable to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. A 2006 NSF survey found 59% of 6th through 8th graders and 87% of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of teens surveyed who reported feeling unhappy, sad or depressed also admitted to not getting enough sleep.
In addition to limiting late night activities, such as exercising, eating or doing homework in the hour prior to going to bed, the AAP recommends parents consider enforcing a media curfew.
The AAP reports an estimated 40% of high schools in the U.S. currently have a start time before 8 a.m. -- only 15% kickoff classes at 8:30 a.m. or later. The median middle school begins classes at 8 a.m., and more than 20% start at 7:45 a.m. or earlier.
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet