TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — State education officials this week will launch a series of hearings to discuss whether middle and high school students should start the school day later in the morning.

The Legislature passed a law last year to consider the proposal.

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Proponents cited an American Academy of Pediatrics report that recommended that students start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Federal data indicates about 85 percent of New Jersey schools start class before that time.

The group says insufficient sleep is “an important public health issue” impacting the students’ academic success.

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon Lapook recommends teens get about 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night, saying any less could lead to depression, obesity and lack of focus.

“Kids are not getting that, in fact only about 13 percent of high school students get the optimal amount of sleep,” Lapook said.

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So, why don’t teens just go to bed earlier? Lapook said adolescents naturally stay up late, WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini reported.

“It’s a natural change in their hormones, their circadian rhythm,” Lapook said. “You can’t have them going to bed later and getting up at the same time really early. Something’s going to suffer.”

The first meeting will be held Monday afternoon at Camden County College’s Blackwood Campus.

The next hearing is planned for Wednesday morning at the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association office in Monroe, while the final hearing is scheduled for May 10 in the Franklin Williams Middle School in Jersey City.

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