Let them sleep in: Doctors want later school times for teens

(NBC) Your teenager wants to sleep later and now his doctor agrees.

Middle and high school students shouldn’t have to start school until 8:30 a.m. or later, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

Right around the time kids hit puberty, their bodies' internal clock naturally shifts, prompting them to stay awake late into the night and want to sleep in.

But the need for sleep in the morning is cut short by an early school bell.

"They are biologically programmed to fall asleep at 11 and wake at around 8 a.m. And that's a time when they're already in first period class," said Dr. Judith Owens of the Children's National Medical Center.

To combat the problem of teen sleep deprivation -- the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends middle and high schools delay their start times - to at least 8:30 a.m.

This past year, Stillwater, Okla., high schools moved their start time from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Back then, high school senior Cameron Jackson said the extra time helped him juggle classes and a part-time job.

"It actually gives me another hour to sit there and wrap up any homework I have left over or just get ready for day,” said Jackson.

Sleep experts say teens who don't get enough sleep may be setting themselves up for increased rates of car accidents, poor grades even depression.

"These kids are essentially in a permanent state of jet lag," said Owens.

An estimated 40 percent of high schools in the U.S. currently start before 8 a.m.

Courtesy: NBC News Channel