MISSOULA, Mont. -

It's the first day of the new academic year at Hellgate High School, and many freshmen say they would like to sleep in.

Missoula County high schools start at 7:50 a.m., and some teens like Hellgate student Sage Plumage start even earlier, with extra classes at 7 a.m. 

"I think that would actually work better, because sometimes I have (cheerleading) practice and then I have to do my homework late," she told NBC Montana.

That reaction is right in line with what an association representing 62,000 pediatricians is saying about school start times and sleep deprivation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement on August 25 recommending middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 to combat that sleep deprivation.

Missoula sleep specialist Dr. Rolf Holle agrees that if teens don't get enough sleep -- eight to nine hours at their age -- they put themselves in stage of almost permanent jet lag during their first couple of class periods. Holle says that a shift in recent years to a "24-hour society" is part of the reason many kids are becoming night owls.

Holle also says, "We have more smartphones, television in bedrooms, computers and things to do and keep us occupied. Also, if your friends stay up during that time, it kind of makes you stay up during that time. We have a lot of teenagers who are, for example, texting after midnight."

It's an issue that is felt across the country. The AAP says 87 percent of U.S. high school students in a recent poll get less than the minimum eight hours of sleep they need.

In the meantime, kids are staying up late, we checked into whether Missoula County would change the start times for secondary schools.

Missoula County Public Schools officials say they are looking at options as they formulate a new facility strategic plan. The district notes that there are several issues that must be addressed, such as field lighting for after-school sports and bus schedules.

MCPS Executive Regional Director Karen Allen told us, "There are some schools in New York that are going through this different kind of schedule. However, if all of your kids walk to school, then you have a very different kind of question than if you're bussing kids from Potomac, for example."