- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Most adolescents in the United States are deprived of sleep, which jeopardizes their mental, emotional and physical growth and damages their performance in the classroom, said a study published Tuesday.

The problem could even be fatal, as teenagers learning to drive go without enough sleep, the study said.

Only 20 percent of children ages 11 to 17 get the nine hours of sleep recommended during the school week, while 45 percent get less than eight hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation survey.

Nearly 30 percent of adolescents doze off in class at least once a week, and 14 percent are regularly late to classes because they oversleep.

Sleep-deprived students are more likely to get poor grades, while 80 percent of those getting a good night’s sleep report receiving good or excellent grades, the study said.

The survey contacted 1,602 families by telephone in the fall. Ninety percent of parents were not aware that their children were behind in their sleep.

“This poll identifies a serious reduction in adolescents’ sleep as students transition from middle school to high school,” said Richard Gelula, executive director of the foundation. “This is particularly troubling as adolescence is a critical period of development and growth — academically, emotionally and physically.”

He urged parents, educators and teenagers “to take an active role in making sleep a priority.”

The survey noted that children’s circadian rhythms, their bodies’ internal clocks, shift when they enter adolescence, toward feeling more awake at night and toward awakening later in the morning.

This natural tendency makes it difficult for adolescents to sleep before 11 p.m., according to the survey, which showed that more than half of U.S. students go to sleep at that hour or later during the school week.

“In the competition between the natural tendency to stay up late and early school start times, a teen’s sleep is what loses out,” said Jodi Mindell, co-chairwoman of the foundation’s sleep and teen task force. “Sending students to school without enough sleep is like sending them to school without breakfast.”

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