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Start School Later To Reduce Rates Of Sleep-Deprived Teens, Doctors Agree

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The American Medical Association (AMA) recommends that classes in both middle and high school should not start earlier than 8:30 a.m. The proposal is aimed at lowering the rates of sleep deprivation among teenagers.

The AMA also advises doctors to inform parents, school administrators and teachers how sleep is a vital aspect in mental and physical health of young people. The policy was approved this week during the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago.

Dr. William Kobler, a board member of the AMA, says that lack of sleep is an increasing health issue that affects American adolescents. Sleep deprivation puts the teenagers at risk of suffering not just physical, mental and emotional stress, but also other related disorders.

Kobler points at the strong scientific evidence that giving teenagers more time to sleep at "appropriate hours" improves their behavior, academic performance, health and general well-being.

For ideal learning and health, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teenagers aged 14 to 17 years old should be getting 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep every night.

However, according to the 2014 study, only 32 percent of teenagers in the United States are getting at least eight hours of snooze time during school nights. The AMA says that almost 10 percent of American high schools have classes that begin at 7:30 a.m. at present.

"We believe delaying school start times will help ensure middle and high school students get enough sleep, and that it will improve the overall mental and physical health of our nation's young people," says Kobler.

Kobler says that switching to a delayed start time for classes can be stressful for families, communities and school districts, but the health advantages they carry for the teenagers outweigh any of the negative experiences.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety and academic performance. Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need," said CDC's Division of Population Health epidemiologist Anne Wheaton, Ph.D. in a release in 2015.

The U.S. National Sleep Foundation says that teenagers are highly susceptible to developing irregular sleeping patterns through the week. Many stay up late during school nights and sleep in late during the weekends.

This habit affects not just the quality of sleep, but also people's biological clocks. Many teenagers are suffering from sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea and even narcolepsy.

Photo: Dan DeLuca | Flickr

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