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Teens & sleep: Go to bed!

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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Teenagers who need more sleep should go to bed earlier, not expect schools to delay start times for them.

The issue has resurfaced yet again with an American Academy of Pediatrics statement citing research that indicates sleep comes later for middle and high school students in puberty's grip. The academy urges that their school days start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Otherwise, it says, teens are at higher risk for obesity, depression, auto accidents and poor academic performance.

Yet practical complications stemming from later school start times abound: disruption of family schedules that count on older students to watch younger siblings after school, logistical and financial headaches for school transportation, classes and extracurricular activities running into the evening and keeping teens from working after-school jobs.

But the bigger problem with delaying school start times is the unrealistic message it sends to a generation some consider to be already too coddled: The world will adjust to suit your needs. That would reinforce a mindset that won't impress employers when these young adults seek their first “real” jobs a few years hence.

Better that they turn off the Xbox, put down the cellphone and go to bed early enough to get the sleep they need, whatever time their school day starts. If they do, they'll be better prepared for classes — and for real life in the real world.

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