LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- America's adolescents are chronically sleep deprived. That's what the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying in a new policy statement it released online Aug. 25.
"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," said pediatrician Judith Owens, M.D., FAAP and lead author of the policy statement.
Owens said getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and who face a 7:30 a.m. first period class or earlier the next day.
The AAP policy endorses a later start time for middle and high school students, recommending a start time of 8:30.am. or later. The policy states, "Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty."
Dr. Jay McClain, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for the Lynchburg City Schools, told ABC 13 News that the AAP policy will cause school districts all over the country to reevaluate their school start times. "I think it's a call for educators everywhere to start considering it on a deeper basis if they haven't already. I think the hard part is there are big trade offs to doing that. What about sports and activities? Do they become later? Do they go before the day?"
McClain also said that for school districts to accommodate shifting middle and high school students to later times, often requires elementary students to begin school much earlier, which then causes younger children to be waiting at bus stops before the sun is out and that causes concern for many parents and educators.
Bedford County Schools did delay their start day to nine am three years ago. Shelley O'Brien, a Bedford County parent of two teenage boys, says she likes the later schedule, but she said parents have to enforce healthy sleeping habits with their children and that it can't be the schools responsibility.