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How An Early School Start Is Affecting Teenagers’ Sleep

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On average San Diego County teenagers start middle and high school around 7:30 a.m. But, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, that's too early and it may be affecting how much sleep teens get.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended schools begin at 8:30 am or later to give teens enough time to sleep 8.5 hours.

Lack of sleep has been linked to physical and mental health conditions such as obesity, depression, and lack of attention.

Rakesh Bhattacharjee, director of pediatric sleep program at UC San Diego's Sleep Center, said early start times are one factor contributing to lack of sleep.

"There are a lot of both mental health as well as physical health consequences," Bhattacharjee told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. "They are at a disadvantage with not being able to learn as well. I think it's unfair to our teenagers to have them go to school so early because it's resulting in them not getting enough sleep."

Bhattacharjee said the teenage years are a time of growth and learning.

Jessica Rapp-McCreary, the principal-in-residence with San Diego County Office of Eduction, said many factors contribute to the start time for schools. She said schools must consider parents, transportation and the athletics schedule when deciding on a start time.

But Rapp-McCreary admitted that the early start can be a challenge for some teachers.

"It can be a little rough," Rapp-McCreary said. "It is a pretty normal experience for teachers to see kids tired in the morning."

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