Have you ever wanted to go back to being a teenager, again? Sometimes I have, and other times not-so-much. Being a teen is not an easy job. The responsibilities of homework, assignments, and projects continue to escalate. Then there are the after school club meetings, music lessons, sports activities, preparing for college, wanting a job for some financial independence, family responsibilities (aka trying to keep the bedroom clean!), fitting in time for socializing with friends, and using technology late at night. Teens get little sleep. They traditionally start the day around 6:30am after barely getting 7 hours of sleep, and are sitting in class around 7:30 am. Teens may come across as having irritability, impulsivity, difficulty focusing attention, and depressed. Perhaps it is not so much a part of being a teen, but signs anyone would have with sleep deprivation.
Today the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement advocating for delayed school start times, suggesting school start times begin after 8:30am. This parallels what psychologists advocated for nearly 20 years ago with their studies conducted in the 1990’s and published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Instead of teens having increased napping, caffeine consumption and sleeping half of the weekend away to catch up on much needed sleep, perhaps they should be able to sleep a little later before school starts. Besides, how alert were any of us in class at 7:30am? Something new for me is “zero period.” I had to ask what this meant. It’s a class that starts around 7am to get more high school credits.
The APA and AAP advocate not interrupting middle school and teens circadian sleep cycle. The benefits of 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep would far outweigh any benefits from sitting in class at 7:30am in a sleepy daze. These benefits include improved academic grades and performance on standardized school tests, improved symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, obesity, drowsiness, fatigue and motor vehicle accidents.
Sleep, it does a body good!
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