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Dozing Off in Class? Poll Shows U.S. Children Complain of Daytime Sleepiness, Fall Asleep at School



National Sleep Foundation


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WASHINGTON, March 29, 1999-- A National Sleep Foundation survey finds a substantial portion of children are sleepy during the day. According to parents' reports in the 1999 nationwide omnibus survey, "Sleep in America," 60% of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day in the past year, and 15% of children reported falling asleep at school during the past year. Teenagers are more likely to complain of being tired during the day than are younger children, according to parent reports (23% of teenagers vs. 11% of younger children).

"Our research has shown that biological changes during puberty affect an adolescent's internal sleep-wake clock. Many adolescents are physiologically not ready to fall asleep until 11:00 pm or later," explains Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D., Sleep Research Lab Director at Bradley Hospital/Brown University, Providence, RI, and National Sleep Foundation Pediatric Council Chair. "The average teen needs about nine hours of sleep, but many students sleep less than seven hours, in part because they need to get to school by the 7:30 am or earlier start time. As a result, many teens experience problem sleepiness during the day."

Setting Later School Hours Favored by Some Parents, Policymakers

One in four parents surveyed (24%) said they favored adjusting school hours so teenagers can sleep later in the morning. This statistic climbed to 39% among parents whose children reported having fallen asleep at school during the past year.

"Teens are paying a heavy price for following the old adage, 'early to bed, early to rise,'" says U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), sponsor of the "Zzz's to A's" bill in Congress. "It's time for high schools to synchronize their clocks with their students' body clocks so that teens are in school during their most alert hours and can achieve their full academic potential." Rep. Lofgren has introduced legislation in Congress to encourage school districts to set later starting times -- not shorten the school day -- and includes a federal grant to help cover administrative and operating costs associated with changing school hours.

Nearly three out of four parents (73%) believe that children should spend as much time learning about good sleep habits as they do about good nutrition and the benefits of exercise. Not surprisingly, this percentage is even higher among parents whose children admitted to falling asleep at school during the past year (84%).

Sixty percent of parents who have children old enough to drive say that they have not discussed the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel with their children who drive. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports, drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 crashes in the United States each year.

The National Sleep Foundation's 1999 "Sleep in America" omnibus survey was conducted in December 1998 and early 1999 through telephone interviews with 1,014 Americans. The survey was released to launch National Sleep Awareness Week, March 29-April 4, 1999, a campaign to educate the public about the importance of good sleep. During National Sleep Awareness Week, more than 300 community sites will host sleep education events and activities to teach adults and children about sleep and sleep disorders. For more information, call 1-888-NSF-SLEEP.

The National Sleep Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting public understanding of sleep and sleep disorders and to supporting sleep-related education, research and advocacy to improve public health and safety. To take NSF's on-line sleep knowledge test, visit their Web site at http://www.sleepfoundation.org


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