Experts warn the alarm clock being set too early for teens leads to problems at school

When it comes to what time to set the alarm clocks parents and some medical experts disagree on when teenagers should be expected to rise and shine. (File)

When it comes to what time to set the alarm clocks parents and some medical experts disagree on when teenagers should be expected to rise and shine.

More and more advocacy groups are pushing for high school to start at 8:30 or even 9 am. Some states have adjusted, but in mid-Michigan this trend is more in the discussion phase.

“You could say the majority of our teenagers are sleep deprived," said Dr. George Zureikat, Mid Michigan Sleep Center.

Dr. Zureikat argues the solution is simple. He says just push back the time teens start classes. He says instead of 7:20 am, middle and high school aged kids should start between 8:30 and 9am.

“Sleep time for teenagers should be between 8.5 to 9.25 hours per night," said Dr. Zureikat. “You’re not going to force them to fall asleep at 9 o’clock it’s not going to work for them.”

Dr. Zureikat says a teenagers biological clock won’t allow them to sleep easily until around 11pm. So that gives teens just 8.5 hours to sleep, get ready for school and get to class.

"Sleep is really as important as food, as exercise, as water to you," said Dr. Zureikat.

Emma Coggins of Holly is nearly 13 and struggles like any other kid her age to get the sleep she needs. Her alarm goes off at 5:30 or 6am during the school year.

Emma admits she doesn’t always get the recommended 8 to 9 hours of shut eye, but is content with her current busy school schedule, between classes and being on the swim team.

“I feel like it helps a lot because it makes more me more tired and it’s easier to sleep," said Emma Coggings, 12-year-old.

Dr. Zureikat warns though, consistently not getting the sleep you need leads to more problems, especially for teens.

“They’re more violent, more irritable, higher risk for depression, higher risk for substance abuse," said Dr. Zureikat.

Dr. Zureikat says, in his experience, later start times yield nothing but positive results.

"Better on every test, they slept more than 8 hours, so you know it works and it’s only to the benefit of our teenagers," said Dr. Zureikat.

Emma’s dad is a teacher himself, and says he thinks there are other solutions.

"Rotating schedules where you don’t have the same first hour class everyday, classes will rotate around so one class isn’t suffering by students coming in earlier," said Anthony Coggins, father and teacher.

As a father of kids who are both busy with after school activities he also worries about how late kids might get home, if school started later in the morning.

"The problem is everything is going to get moved back, so all of a sudden your football games, basketball, volleyball, swimming, theater," said Coggins.

For now, dad is happy with Emma’s current schedule.

"Is it something to look at, is it a viable option? Absolutely, do I think it’s the only option, not really," said Coggins.

The doctor says, to some degree, you can make up sleep on weekends but you'll never make up all the sleep you lose during a week.

To help teens get the needed shut eye, Dr. Zureikat suggests teens stop all activity and exercise at least two hours before bedtime, and stop using electronics at least one hour before they hit the pillow.

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