You’re Not Dreaming -- The CDC Says School Should Start Later

It's about so much more than hitting the snooze button.

Few things are worse than being expected to act like a fully-functioning human early in the morning when you haven't gotten a lot of sleep, but according to a recent report from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Pediatric Association, you're not really fully functioning anyway.

This same research has been fueling a movement to start school later for middle school and high school students, bringing the official start of day to the CDC's recommended time of 8:30 a.m. or later. It's a cause that the aptly-named non-profit Start School Later has been championing for a while now.

Alex Pratt, a 21-year-old school board member and advisory board member Start School Later told MTV News that even though teenagers need more sleep than just about any other demographic (save for babies and toddlers), he's found that less than 10% of the students in his district get the recommended amount of sleep for kids their age. And because of that, their health suffers.

"There’s this image of American teenagers as lazy and loving sleep," Pratt said. "But the reason they need those later start times is because their circadian rhythms -- their biological clocks -- mean they can’t get high quality sleep until after 11p.m."

Pratt said that while in your teens, your body isn't totally ready for the full-on adult schedule. For a huge number of teens, their bodies keeps producing the sleepy-time chemicals (melatonin) between the hours of 11 p.m. until well into the morning. So, a 7:30 a.m. calculus class could just biologically not work.

"It really affects every part of your day, if you have a really bad night of sleep," Pratt said. "You’re still reeling from it, sometimes you can do [the sleepless nights] for a day or two and you’ll be okay, but the new norm for so many high school students is a less than adequate amount of sleep. But the body isn’t really prepared to handle that crash on a daily basis."

A few schools have taken this research and implemented later start-times. Logistically, it can be a nightmare to make the bus schedules work, but ultimately it's an investment in students' well-being. Schools that implemented the later start time saw that students missed less class and showed up on time more, were more alert and performed better. Zzz's get degrees.

"The other part of that is a little less abstract is their social lives, personal lives and academic lives," Pratt said. "The impact is actually pretty strong in a positive way."