Starting schools later could help teenagers from Canada benefit from better sleep. This could translate in a better chance for success among this category of children, according to new research.

The study, published, Jan. 24, in the Journal of Sleep Research, by researchers from McGill University, addresses the issue of insufficient sleep and its associated harms.

Teenagers And Sleep Deprivation

The scientists discovered that students who are enrolled in schools that start earlier sleep less, thus being less likely to meet the national sleep recommendations for their ages.

"Students slept an average of 8:36 h on weekdays and 69% met sleep duration recommendations, but 60% reported feeling tired in the morning. Every 10-min delay in school start time corresponded with 3.2 additional minutes of sleep, a 1.6% greater probability of sufficient sleep and a 2.1% smaller probability of feeling tired at school in the morning," noted the research.

This means that these students are more likely to be tired in the morning. According to the research, one in three students don't get enough sleep for their age, and there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon.

"As teenagers go through puberty, their circadian clock gets delayed by two to three hours. By the time they reach junior high, falling asleep before 11 p.m. becomes biologically difficult, and waking up before 8 a.m. is a struggle. Adolescents are fighting biology to get to school on time," noted lead author Geneviève Gariépy, a post-doctoral student at McGill's Institute of Health and Social Policy.

Prior research showed that sleep-deprived teenagers perform worse in school. They are prone to developing more health issues and are also vulnerable to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems. The current research employed data from 30,000 students, part of 362 schools across Canada. The data was gathered from a cross-national survey, carried out once every four years, in more than 40 countries.

After assessing the number of sleeping hours that children in this age group make, the researchers then investigated the school programs of the 362 institutions, whose first class ranged from 8:00 to 9:30. After a cross-examination of the data, a strong causality was found between the class starting late and the better performance and well-being of the students. 

Sleep Deprivationin Teens Common In The United States

However, teenagers in Canada are not the only ones to have sleeping problems in both the patterns and the quantity of their night's sleep. According to the United States National Sleep Foundation, most of the teenagers in the United States also don't get enough sleep.

"Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep - one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights. Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week - they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep," noted the foundation's data.

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