CHICAGO (CBS/AP) — Pediatricians have recommended the Chicago Public Schools start classes for high school and middle school students later in the day, so students can get more sleep, but with Mayor Rahm Emanuel rebuffing such efforts, some doctors have offered other ideas for improving student performance.

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At a City Council committee hearing on Thursday, medical experts outlined options to deal with sleep deprivation among teenagers.

As Emanuel has opposed efforts to have Chicago middle schools and high schools begin later in the day, some sleep experts offered other ideas.
Dr. Phyllis Zee, associate director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology at Northwestern University, said it would really help if schools didn’t start any earlier than 8:30 a.m., but the mayor has nixed that idea.

As an alternative, Zee said putting brighter lights in classrooms would help keep students more focused on their studies. So would scheduling courses like math, science, and reading later in the day; as well as conducting tests later.

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“If you take a test in first period, your grades tend to be lower than if you were to take the test a little bit later,” she said. “This is for most students, of course.”

If nothing else, Zee said health classes at CPS should include lessons on the importance of good sleep habits.

“We’ve changed our vending machines. We’re thinking about nutrition, we’re thinking about exercise, and I think we have to begin to think of sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle”, she said.
Health Committee Chairman George Cardenas (12th Ward) said he agrees with those kinds of assessments, and said CPS should try those ideas.

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