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Your Teen May Be Chronically Sleep Deprived

The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach, SUNY New Paltz Ulster County School Boards Association


More than 80 percent of the country’s public middle and high schools start too early, according to a report out last week from the Centers for Disease Control. Nevada's schools rank better than the average, with about half starting at 8:30 am, but that still leaves 130,000 of the state's teens chronically sleep deprived.


Research indicates that while younger children learn best early in the day, teens perform better if they start school later in the morning. 

“One of the first signs of puberty is this shift in sleep cycles so that it’s harder for them to fall asleep earlier. They may not be able to fall asleep before 11 o’clock at night," says  Ann Wheaton, an epidemiologist and teen sleep expert with the CDC. 

If they’re then waking up at 6:30 or 7 to make it to school on time, that chronic sleep deprivation can affect not only school performance but also health. 

“It’s very strongly associated with depressive symptoms such as suicidal thoughts and it’s also associated with unhealthy behavior such as smoking and drinking and taking illicit drugs," Wheaton says.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics went so far as to recommend that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Washoe County School District has talked about changing start before, but the idea has met with strong opposition from the community. Rick Martin, the district’s transportation director, says parents of younger kids tend to worry about how they'll deal with childcare in the afternoons, while parents of teens are concerned about sports and other extracurriculars ending late. Even local businesses have spoken out.

“Issues came up from local businesses about not being able to use those students for after-school programs, which a lot of them do," Martin says.

As the district grapples with overcrowding, Martin says the idea will probably come up again, but likely not until 2017 at the earliest.