US doctors: Start school later to prevent sleep-deprived teens

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Do You Know How Much Sleep Kids Actually Need?

CHICAGO, June 14 (Reuters) - The American Medical Association on Tuesday urged starting school later in the morning for teenagers so they can get enough sleep.

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In a new policy adopted on Tuesday, the AMA said middle and high schools should start at 8:30 a.m. at the earliest because research has shown that puberty is accompanied by a biological shift in circadian rhythm that contributes to later bedtimes and wake-up times in adolescents.

The influential doctors group said nearly 10 percent of U.S. high schools today begin at or before 7:30 a.m. as districts try to make time for additional classes, sports and extracurricular activities.

Tips to help you sleep better:

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US doctors: Start school later to prevent sleep-deprived teens

Lavender 

The scent of lavender is known to be very relaxing and can help you get to sleep at night. 

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Shut off the screens

Avoid being on your computer, phone or e-reader before going to sleep. Studies have shown the use of these items before bed can decrease the quality of your sleep.

(Photo credit: Tetra Images via Getty Images)

Melatonin supplements 

Taking sleeping pills sounds scary to many people, but melatonin supplements are like a sleep vitamin, giving you a little extra of the naturally produced hormone. 

(photo credit: Ekspansio)

Stick to a schedule

Going to sleep and waking at the same time every day helps your natural sleep/wake cycle. You sleep much better when you go to bed when actually drowsy and wake naturally at the same time each day. 

(photo credit: FogStock/Alin Dragulin)

Exercise 

Regular exercise, even as little as 20 mins a day can help you sleep better at night. 

(photo credit: John Fedele)

Skip the afternoon nap

Taking a nap during the day can exasperate insomnia for many people. 

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Inadequate sleep has been linked to a host of mental and physical problems, from poor memory performance and mood disorders to impaired immune function and unhealthy body mass index, the AMA said.

"Sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue affecting our nation's adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical and emotional distress and disorders," said Dr. William Kobler, an AMA board member.

"Scientific evidence strongly suggests that allowing adolescents more time for sleep at the appropriate hours results in improvements in health, academic performance, behavior, and general well-being," he added.

Only 32 percent of American teens in a recent study reported getting at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teenagers between 14 and 17 years old should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.

The AMA's new policy, adopted at the group's annual meeting in Chicago, also encourages physicians to educate parents, school administrators and teachers about the importance of sleep for adolescent mental and physical health. (Reporting by Susan Kelly; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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