Report: American Teens Lack Sleep

ByABC News
September 28, 2000, 1:59 PM

B O S T O N, Sept. 29 -- Pediatricians and politicians have issued a Wake-Up Call to Americas educators: Teenagers should start school later in the morning.

In a report issued Thursday, the National Sleep Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, urges educators to adopt later start times for middle and high schools so teens can get more sleep in the morning.

They also recommend schools create a sleep-education curriculum to assist students in learning about the consequences of sleep deprivation and the importance of sleep to their overall health.

Kids Fade Fast During Day

Some evidence exists that teens who attend schools that open later get more sleep. In Minneapolis high schools where start times were changed from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. students reported getting an extra hour of sleep each school day, say researchers from the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota.

Teachers report students are more alert during the first two periods of the school schedule, say the Minneapolis researchers.

Dr. Mary Carskadon, director of the Chronobiology and Sleep Research Laboratory at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I., an adolescent sleep expert and co-chair of the foundations sleep and teens task force, says pubescent changes in body chemistry make it difficult for teenagers to get to bed early. Combined with early school start times, those changes mean many teens go to school sleepy, she says.

Teenagers are getting way too little sleep, Carskadon says. They are being asked to get up at the wrong time. They are being asked to be in school when their brains are asleep.

We dont give sleep much respect in this society. Teachers, parents, and schools need to make sleep more of a top priority.

Getting Enough Zs to Get As

In fact, sleep studies have shown that teenagers need between 8 ½ and about nine hours of sleep each night, according to the report. In reality, only 15 percent of teenagers sleep for 8 ½ hours or more during the school week and more than one-quarter of teenagers sleep less than seven hours.