The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, acknowledge that most US middle and high schools put children’s health, safety, and academic success at risk by starting the school day too early.
The AAP recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The Mayo Clinic says that teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep. An estimated two-thirds of students do not get sufficient sleep. They drag through a long day of classes, bus rides, extra curricular activities, after-school jobs, and several hours of homework. They become sleep deprived, chronically fatigued, and overly stressed.
Students with sleep deficit and chronic fatigue are more likely to perform poorly in school, suffer depression, lack physical exercise, become obese, be less alert while driving, develop a weakened immune system, and become involved with alcohol and drugs. The Mayo Clinic reports that studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick and more likely to take longer to recover. Over time, the risk of diabetes and heart disease also rises.
Pediatrician Judith Owens stated, “The AAP is making a definitive and powerful statement about the importance of sleep to the health, safety, performance and well-being of our nation’s youth.”
As children grow and develop they have greater sleep requirements. It doesn’t mean they lack ambition or are lazy. If your child is difficult to get out of bed, grumpy at breakfast, and sleepy in school, it may be time to rearrange the schedule, drop some extra activities or reconsider schooling choices. Childhood is all too short and the stress of sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue is unlikely to produce healthy and well-adjusted adults.
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