Most middle schools and high schools start their days earlier than the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends, according to an analysis of survey responses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education conducted the analysis of data from the 2011-2012 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). Among an estimated 39,700 public middle and secondary schools and schools that combine middle schoolers and high schoolers, the average school-day start time was 8:03 a.m.

In a policy statement published last year, the AAP recommended that high- and middle-school days begin at 8:30 a.m. or later to enable students to get adequate sleep and improve their health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life.

“Among adolescents, insufficient sleep has been associated with adverse risk behaviors, poor health outcomes, and poor academic performance,” noted Anne G. Wheaton, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Atlanta, who conducted the analysis.

Only 17.7% of the schools studied started their days at 8:30 a.m. or later. Schools’ start times varied widely by state. In Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming, no schools started as late at 8:30 a.m., while more than three-quarters of schools in Alaska and North Dakota began school at 8:30 a.m. or later.

“A school system start time policy of 8:30 a.m. or later provides teenage students the opportunity to achieve the 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep recommended by AAP and the 8-10 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation,” the researchers wrote.

Read the full study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


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