SAUK RAPIDS - It’s a question brought up all the time by the national media: are high school students getting enough sleep?

Locally, ROCORI, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Sartell and St. Cloud high schools all start between 8:15 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. A recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics says a school system start time policy of 8:30 a.m. or later gives teenagers a chance to get the recommended amount of sleep. Overall, only 17.7 percent of public schools in the study started school at that time or later.

Dr. Troy Payne with the St. Cloud Hospital Sleep Center says teenage brains naturally don't fall asleep until after 11:00 p.m. and usually need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night.

"The theory that they can just go to bed earlier and still get the sleep that they need is blatantly false. High school students cannot go to sleep before 11:00 p.m."

Dan DeBaun, WJON
Dan DeBaun, WJON

According to the study, 87 percent of high school students across the country are getting significantly less than the recommended amount of sleep on school nights. Instead, the average amount was around seven hours. 28 percent of students also reported falling asleep in school at least once a week. Dr. Payne says a lack of sleep can also have more severe consequences.

"If you don't get enough sleep the science is showing there's an increased risk of car accidents, diabetes and a lot of other issues that we're starting to notice."

If students get the recommended amount of sleep, studies say daytime sleepiness, depressed mood and caffeine use were all significantly reduced. By contrast, short sleep duration only related to impaired academic achievement.

Some Sauk Rapids-Rice students admit it can be hard to keep up with sleep. Lucas Bentrud is a high school student in the district who plays football and baseball. He says it's challenging to balance sleep with school and activities.

"Definitely in the fall and spring I tend to not get a whole lot of sleep. Once practice is over and you get home and get done eating, it's already 8 o'clock and then you have homework to do."

However, Dr. Payne says the local district start times are better than a significant portion of other schools across the state and country.

"8:15 is sort of in-between and that's better than 7:50, which is when a lot of schools start. The science is saying that if you can start later, the kids will get more sleep and you'll have fewer problems."

Sauk Rapids-Rice superintendent Dan Bittman says the community has supported their start times and that it's also crucial for neighboring districts to have similar start times.

"We know in terms of athletics and activities, if we were to veer far from schedules in other nearby districts, that would impact competitions that students participate in on a daily basis."

Even though most students grumble that they would like more time to sleep, some acknowledge that pushing class times back further would infringe on after-school activities.

"Most people would like to start later but I don't think they realize that everything else would have to go later too," Sauk Rapids-Rice High School student Rabecka Barrett says.

There has been no recent discussion on changing school start times. However, Bittman says they're always open to looking at the topic and making adjustments if recommendations change.

"When kids are well rested and well fed, we know that they are better engaged and that they do better academically."


Dan DeBaun, WJON
Dan DeBaun, WJON

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