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Study: School students are sleep deprived

October 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Teens around America are waking up tired. A new study says that about 80 percent of high school students are sleep deprived.Sixteen-year-old Ren Carrasquilla gets up early to get ready for school. His bus comes at 6:20 a.m. The first bell rings at 7:25 a.m. Doctors say teens need nine hours of sleep. Carrasquilla doesn't get nearly that much.

"Nine hours of sleep? I don't think that's possible for high school if you have to get up at 5 or at 6 a.m.," said Carrasquilla. "That means you have to be in bed at 8 or 9 p.m."

Experts say about 80 percent of high school students are sleep deprived. They're biologically programmed to stay up late.

"There clearly is a shift in adolescents to a natural bedtime and wake time being two or even three hours later than it was in elementary school," said teen sleep expert Judith Owens.

Owens wants high schools to consider starting later. She did a study at St. George's School in Rhode Island where they delayed school start time by 30 minutes. The results were stunning, kids were much more alert.

"Starting school later actually got kids to bed earlier," said St. George's Dean Erick Peterson. "We think that was in large part by virtue of their being better rested they were able to be more efficient and get their work done."

Getting just a few more precious minutes of sleep would certainly make a difference. But for preschoolers, the issue isn't always about bedtime. Jack Frank, 3, snored at night and his mom, Cindy Stubbs, says he is grouchy all day.

"He'd be snoring and run everybody out of the room," said Stubbs.

The toddler was diagnosed was sleep apnea. He stopped breathing so many times he never got a good night's sleep. Surgeons took out his tonsils.

"That amount of obstruction in the back of the throat can contribute to difficulty with sleep apnea," said pediatrician Dr. Leslie Boyce.

One study found tonsillectomies along with removing the adenoids improved sleep for 80 to 90 percent of kids.

Sleep disorders may also disguise themselves through attention disorders. In a pediatrics study, 28 percent of kids referred to a doctor for sleep problems also had ADHD. After treating the sleep disorder, 50 percent no longer qualified for an ADHD diagnosis.

Doctors say kids in grade school should get up to 12 hours of sleep each night. Teens typically need about nine hours of shut-eye.


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