Summer is coming to an end and so are the days of letting our teenagers sleep in until noon. With school about to re-open (if it hasn’t already), it’s time to start setting alarms and getting the kids out of bed. But according to the CDC, the earlier the start time of school, the more negative the health impact is on our teenage students.
“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance,” said Anne Wheaton, Ph.D., lead author and epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health. “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”
According to research from the CDC fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States begin the school day after the recommended 8:30 a.m. start time. When schools do start later, this allows students a better opportunity to get the recommended 8.5 – 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Too little sleep is always a complaint among high school students and is associated with being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, vaping, and using illegal drugs, not to mention the negative impact it has on grades.
CDC key findings:
- 42 states reported that 75-100% of the public schools in their respective states started before 8:30 a.m.
- The average start time was 8:03 a.m. and this is true for North Carolina
- The percentage of schools with start times of 8:30 a.m. or later varied greatly by state. No schools in Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming started at 8:30 a.m. or later; more than 75% of schools in Alaska and North Dakota started at 8:30 a.m. or later.
- Louisiana had the earliest average school start time (7:40 a.m.), while Alaska had the latest (8:33 a.m.).
- In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement urging middle and high schools to modify start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to aid students in getting sufficient sleep to improve their overall health. School start time policies are not determined at the federal or state level, but at the district or individual school level. Future studies may determine whether this recommendation results in later school start times.
Parents can help their teens by encouraging a more consistent bedtime as well as rise times, including weekends. Parents can also help with bedtime routines by eating dinner a little earlier, limiting caffeine intake, having the kids do homework when they get home, and promoting physical activity.
To learn about CDC’s efforts to promote sufficient sleep, visit https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html.