Does your teenager have trouble getting enough sleep on a school night?

It turns out it could be the school’s fault.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying the start time of middle and high schools to better accommodate the natural sleep patterns of adolescents.

In a report titled Let Them Sleep the AAP says the onset of puberty can shift a child’s sleep patterns by up to two hours, making it difficult for them to fall asleep early enough for a full night’s sleep. It says delaying the start of school is an easy way to fix the problem.

Dr. Elliott Lee agrees. He is a psychiatrist and sleep expert at the sleep clinic at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. He says statistics show up to 70% of teens are sleep-deprived, well above the national average. "When school starts early then we really predispose them to having more problems with sleep deprivations which affects their academic performance, social interactions, and even exacerbates mood and anxiety problems," he says.

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation in teens can also increase the risk of automobile accidents and even contribute to obesity.

Lee says teens are not wired like adults. "They have a different biological sleep need than adults," he says. They have a need to go to sleep later and wake up later."

The AAP adds that other factors can also contribute to poor sleep, including homework, a part-time job, and the use of technology, particularly smart phones and social media. It's encouraging doctors to teach parents and students about healthy sleep habits, including enforcing a media curfew.

The Canadian Pediatric Society has not yet taken a position on whether or not schools in Canada should have later start times.

No one from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board or the Ottawa Catholic School Board were available for comment.