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Districts pushing back bells for the sake of teens' sleep

Last month, sleep researchers from Brown University confirmed what any adolescent already knows: School starts too early. Their study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed pushing the start of classes back just 30 minutes at a Rhode Island boarding school produced happier, more alert kids who ate healthier breakfasts and did a better job of beating the morning bell.

This fall, school districts such as the Bay Area's Sequoia Union will see whether those findings scale up to a larger population. The San Francisco Examiner reports:

According to district documents, its four high schools must adopt a later start time by the 2011-12 school year... Menlo-Atherton will start school at 8:45 a.m. three days a week, compared to its 7:50 a.m. start time last school year. The high school will start at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays to accommodate the school’s block schedule.

Lucile Packard Children's Hospital sleep specialist Rafael Pelayo, MD, says the importance of sleep is on par with nutrition and exercise for adolescents:

"It's good for your health,” he said. "Teens need more sleep; we already knew this. But we try and treat them like mini-adults. We cannot treat them the same way as an adult, though; they need more sleep and we adults need to acknowledge that."

Better now than never, I guess. (But seriously, where was this attention ten years ago, when I was in high school?)

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