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Teens Cut Crashes By Sleeping In

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 11:32 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Teen Drivers, Sleep Deprivation, Circadian Rhythms, FDA and Prescription Drugs

Teens need an extra hour of sleep in the morning to reduce car crashes.



IMAGE SOURCE:  ©iStockphoto/ sleepy teen in car/ author: bibikoff


It sounds like a win-win.

Letting teenagers sleep in an hour and start their school day at 8:30 rather than 7:30 a.m. may reduce the odds for car crashes.

While parents may blame their teens for staying up late e-mailing their friends, it turns out that adolescents are biologically programmed to stay up an hour later than they did before puberty. 

This University of Kentucky study finds that a shift in their biological clocks conflicts with the earlier hours of high school. 

“There is evidence they get phase-shifted by at least an hour. So you’ve got biology pushing you later and then you’ve got the school systems starting an hour earlier. By the end of the week, [kids] are a wreck and our study shows they might actually be in one,” says Fred Danner, a psychologist who co-authored this study to the Washington Post.

Researchers surveyed about 10,000 students from Kentucky on their sleep habits – first in 1998, and then again in 1999. By that time the start of school had been moved to 8:30 a.m.

What they found was a reduction by 16.5 percent in car crashes and the number of students who got a full eight hours of sleep rose to about 50 percent from 35.7 percent.

The research appears in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Teens probably need at least eight hours of sleep, according to Danner, and nine might be preferable.  But with the earlier school start at 7:30 a.m., it was equivalent to sleep deprivation of 24 hours by the end of the week.

The National Sleep Foundation finds fatigued drivers are responsible for about 100,000 accidents a year.  Over half of those are among 16 to 25 year olds.


The Importance of Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation reminds us that sleep is a basic necessity of like, not unlike food or water and it affects every part of your life from health, to safety, mood and learning.

Getting less sleep does not equal having more time, the organization reports. 

Experts recommend 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night.  

  • Sleep is not a passive process. During sleep tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored, hormones that control growth and appetite are secreted, among many other processes.Sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. Most teens experience a change to their circadian rhythm which results in a sleep phase delay. This means teens naturally feel ready for sleep around 11-12 pm, making it very difficult for teens with early school start times to get the sleep they need.
  • Sleep and learning are intimately related. Sleep deprivation impairs ability to pay attention, creativity, communication, abstract thinking, problem solving, innovation, decision making, mood and motivation.
  • Insomnia is sometimes indicated as a trigger for depression, but depression is also considered one of the most prevalent causes of insomnia.  #

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