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Cheer Up, Sleepy Teen

Many Americans are still trying to get back that hour of sleep they lost when the clocks were pushed forward an hour Sunday. But, as CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, teen-agers' biological clocks are always playing "catchup."

For instance, Laura Kingery, 17, is up every day by 5:30 a.m., because school starts at 7:25. It's not too surprising that it's hard for her to get up. It's even less surprising when one considers that new studies show teen-agers need more than eight hours of sleep. They seldom come near that. The reason: The onset of puberty plays havoc with bodies, as well as minds.

Explains Dr. William Dement of Stanford University, "The net result is that the biological clock, which times the feeling of alertness, the secretion of melatonin, and a host of other things, changes the way it relates to the day. It simply runs later."

That means teen-agers go to sleep late and can't wake up early. The result is often irritability and poor schoolwork.

"I am absolutely convinced that this is sort of an invisible, tremendous loss in education," Dr. Dement asserts.

Montgomery County in Maryland sets its school start times to save money on busing. School board member Mona Signer is leading the drive to start high schools a full hour later.

She says, "Teachers will tell you that, the first two periods of the day, there are students falling asleep in class, that their academic work suffers."

But starting school later isn't so easy. It would cut into after-school activities, like sports. "The late time would really hurt athletics," observes coach Brady Blade. A student adds, "Playing football in the dark isn't too much fun."

For now, the only advice experts have for sleepy teen-agers: To be alert in the morning, get to bed early at night.

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