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Better Sleep = Better Students

Union County

Classes are back in session in Kentucky and many school buses are on the road early in the morning across the Bluegrass State.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when middle school and high school students get more sleep, they do better academically, are healthier and make healthier choices.

But epidemiologist Anne Wheaton says only one in five students gets the recommended amount of sleep – between eight-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half hours a night. She says sleep deprivation is linked to drinking, smoking, drug use and 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 and your memory doesn't work quite as well," she says.

Wheaton says a major cause of the sleep problem is that an overwhelmingly large percentage of schools in Kentucky start before 8:30 a.m., with an average start time for middle and high school of 8:03.

Wheaton also says puberty delays sleep, which means teenagers need more time to get going because their bodies are keeping them up later at night.

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 part to help students get sufficient sleep to improve their overall health.

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

While there are other factors involved, Wheaton says some school districts are resistant to later start times because it would increase costs for busing. She says parents can help by maintaining a consistent bedtime and rise time, including on weekends.

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