In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

September 2, 2014

Let Sleeping Kids Lie?

By In the Loop

Tired teens may simply be responding to their bodies' natural rhythms. If you're the parent of a school-age child, congratulations. You made it. You survived another summer. And for many, today is the day you've been waiting for: the first day of school! But if your teen, or preteen, was a little slow to rise and shine this morning, new research shows he or she may not be faking it. At least not entirely.

A story in the Los Angeles Times tell us that the average teenager in the United States "regularly experiences levels of sleepiness similar to people with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy." And as any parent knows, this lack of sleep can affect their mood, attention span, memory, behavior and even grades. It's enough of an issue that the American Academy of Pediatrics last week called "the chronic sleepiness of our nation's teenagers" a "public health issue." The group also recommended that middle and high schools across the country do something about that by pushing back their morning start times at least 30 minutes to allow kids to get more shut-eye before shuffling off to class. 

You're probably wondering, as we did, where were these recommendations when we were in school? Or, maybe more practically, can't kids just go to bed earlier? The short answer, thanks to that fabulous phenomenon known as adolescence, is no. "Studies suggest that at the onset of adolescence, there is a delay in when the body starts to secrete melatonin, a hormone that tells the body it's time to go to sleep," the Times reports. Researchers, like Mayo's Tim Morgenthaler, M.D., president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, say it also often takes more time for an "adolescent brain" to "wind down and fall asleep" after being awake for most of the day. And because of this, he tells the paper, "When high school classes begin early in the morning, we ask teens to shine when their biological clock tells them to sleep."

How can parents ensure that kids are getting the proper amount of rest? Perhaps these tips from our friends at will help. If not, well, another summer is only nine short months away. May the force be with you.

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Tags: Education, Practice story, Research News, Sleep, Teenagers

I thought teens were known for have 25 hour clocks, meaning if we start school later, we will still be continually off by one more hour each day. Maybe we are better off giving teens melatonin supplements instead of the overdose of caffeine they typically get.

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