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Report: Missouri Students Need More Zs

The CDC says too many teens get less sleep than they need, due in part to the early start times of middle and high schools. Credit: Charlie Wrenn/Morguefile.
The CDC says too many teens get less sleep than they need, due in part to the early start times of middle and high schools. Credit: Charlie Wrenn/Morguefile.
August 25, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Getting more sleep will likely help Missouri middle- and high-school students do better in school, be healthier and make healthier choices, according to a study issued earlier this month by the CDC.

Epidemiologist Anne Wheaton with the CDC says only one in five students gets the recommended amount of sleep, which is between eight-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half hours per night. She says sleep deprivation is linked to drinking alcohol and tobacco and drug use, as well as poor academic performance.

"If you haven't had enough sleep and you're sitting in the first period of school, you have a harder time paying attention," she says. "And your memory doesn't work quite as well if you don't get enough sleep."

Wheaton says a major cause of sleep deprivation is that more than 95 percent of Missouri secondary schools start before 8:30 a.m., which doesn't give students enough time to get the recommended amount of sleep.

She also says puberty delays sleep, which means teens need more time to get going in the morning because their bodies are keeping them up later at night.

Wheaton notes the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement last year urging middle and high schools to modify start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m., in order to help students get enough sleep and improve their overall health.

"Not getting enough sleep tends to affect your appetite so that you eat more. You're more fatigued, so you're less likely to exercise," she says. "It can impact your blood sugar, so further down the road after years of not getting enough sleep, you're more likely to develop diabetes."

There are other factors involved, but Wheaton says some school districts are resistant to later start times because it would increase costs for busing students. She says parents can also help their children practice good sleep habits by maintaining consistent bedtimes and rise times, including on weekends.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO