Sleep-Deprived Kids Are Putting Civilization At Risk

sleep-deprived teen

Numerous studies in recent years have shown that teens simply don’t get enough sleep. More particularly, they tend to not get in when it can be most useful in helping their brains develop as they’re supposed to.

Now, finally, the American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted a policy stating that doctors need to educate parents, teachers, school officials and others about the importance of sleep for teens’ physical and mental health.

And the AMA’s new policy goes one important step further: It recommends that school start times be moved back, to as late as 8:30 a.m., to accommodate the later-sleeping-in needs of teens.

A coincidental report from the National Sleep Foundation says that allowing teens more sleep time will have a number of other benefits – including reducing less-sleepy teens risk of pimples, acne and other skin disorders.

A Stanford University study called the lack-of-sleep problem an “epidemic” among teens. A CBS News report noted that – far from unusually – start times at a school in Warrenton VA were as early as 7:30 a.m.  That same report and others noted that “only 13% of high school students get the optimal amount of sleep [of] 8.5-9.5 hours.”

The move-school-start-times-back concept will undoubtedly strike fear into the hearts of employers and  parents who have child-care  or child-transport issues. Traffic engineers, among many others, also undoubtedly will – if such a change comes to be –figuratively at least, cause their most intimate garments  to be occupied by material not meant to be there.

This lack-of-sleep for teens issue is hardly a new one, though: The same concept has been discussed ad infinitum since schools exclusively used chalk boards and felt erasures.

But two distinct, incompatible issues remain: Teens have no desire to go to bed at a time that could provide them the quantity of sleep they need, and, simultaneously, they have no desire to arise in the morning before they are good and ready to do so.

While these are problems in search of solutions, they are not easily solvable problems.

But keep this in mind: Numerous generations of teens – the so-called Millennials, the Gen X’ers (whatever they are) and right on back through the age groups stretching back to the Pre-Baby-Boomers (my lot) – have been encouraged to ‘go to BED’ and ‘GET up’ at reasonable hours, but we, as teens, resisted with the ‘you-can’t-make-me-do-it’ strength only teens possess.

Yet, still, somehow the world has kept turning; Economies have advanced (and collapsed), stuff has been created, and lives have been made easier for most of the world where this teen sleep issue is an issue.

A strong case could be made for taking the ‘it ain’t broken that bad, so let’s not try to fix it’ approach.

While I have no desire to see sleep-deprived kids running rampant in the streets (or worse, places where

alcoholic beverages can be obtained), I’m pretty much leaning toward John Lennon’s advice on this: “Let it be.”



AMA: Sleep In, Kids (Most Teens Get Too Little)

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Male high school student asleep in class

The American Medical Association has recommended that middle and high school students’ days should start later – as late as 8:30 a.m. – in the interests of enabling teens to get more sleep than most currently do. Early class start-times, often early than 7:30 a.m., is a serious contributor to the fact that, rather than getting the 8.5-9.5 they should for their physical and mental health, many teens go to school sleep deprived, affecting both their attention span and their overall ability to comprehend what’s being taught.

The new policy, adopted at AMA’s recent annual meeting in Chicago, also states that doctors need to educate parents, teachers, school officials and others about the importance of sleep for teens’ physical and mental health.

“Sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue affecting our nation’s adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical and emotional distress and disorders,” AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in an association news release.

“Scientific evidence strongly suggests that allowing adolescents more time for sleep at the appropriate hours results in improvements in health, academic performance, behavior, and general well-being,” Kobler said.

Recent research shows that only 32 percent of American teens get at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens aged 14 to 17 should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and learning.

Currently, nearly 10 percent of U.S. high schools start at or before 7:30 a.m., the AMA said.

“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,” Kobler said.

“While implementing a delayed school start time can be an emotional and potentially stressful issue for school districts, families and members of the community,” Kobler added, “the health benefits for adolescents far outweigh any potential negative consequences.”