Let them sleep: AAP says schools should move back start times for teens

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - One group is pushing schools across the country to delay middle and high school start times. Parents seem to agree: start times in Horry County are too early.

Many kids are catching the bus at around 6:30 a.m., and they're complaining to their parents about feeling distracted and tired at school when they should be focused and attentive.

A statement today from the American Academy of Pediatrics says a huge majority of teens aren't getting enough sleep. It says districts should delay start times of middle and high schools to combat the problem. Teens' natural sleep cycles make it difficult to fall asleep before 11 p.m., the group says.

The turn-around between then and when kids wake up to get to school is much too short, according to the AAP statement.

The father of two Horry County middle-schoolers says he believes his daughters wake up way too early.

"There are so many children who have to wake up at 6," says Robert Kinsey. "And I've been reading online where kids are waking up at 5:30 because their bus comes earlier, and to me it's just not beneficial for the child."

Kinsey says he daughters come home exhausted. They complain of hunger in class, and losing focus.

Teens suffering from sleep deprivation are more likely to be depressed, overweight, score lower on tests, have lower grades and a greater risk of being in a car accident.

"They're having to wake up so early in the morning, most kids don't want to eat breakfast at 6:15, 6:20," according to Kinsey. "They've got to be at the bus stop at 6:30, 6:45 and they're just not able to start their day off right. So the foundation of the day, I believe, is getting corrupted way too early in the morning."

The American Academy of Pediatrics says schools should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Middle and high schools in Horry County have various start times ranging from 7:45 a.m. to 8:25 a.m.

Local pediatricians say that 10 a.m. is the best start time for teens to make sure they get enough sleep. In addition, if your kids consider themselves night owls, tell them this: they release growth hormones while they sleep. If they're interfering with sleep, they may be interfering with the way they're growing.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.