Today the Centers for Disease Control published the results of an annual survey of over 39,000 schools in the United States. They add to the growing chorus of voices advocating for later school start times for middle and high school age students. The results in a nutshell: school starts too early in America.
Here is an infographic from the CDC:
A minor quibble, but other authors recommend that teenagers get 9 hours of sleep per night– less than 10% achieve that milestone.
In a press release, the CDC summarized the key findings of the report:
- 42 states reported that 75-100 percent of the public schools in their respective states started before 8:30 AM.
- The average start time was 8:03 AM.
- The percentage of schools with start times of 8:30 AM or later varied greatly by state. No schools in Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming started at 8:30 AM or later; more than 75 percent of schools in Alaska and North Dakota started at 8:30 AM or later.
- Louisiana had the earliest average school start time (7:40 AM), while Alaska had the latest (8:33 AM).
The authors write:
Among the possible public health interventions for increasing sufficient sleep among adolescents, delaying school start times has the potential for the greatest population impact by changing the environmental context for students in entire school districts.
They also emphasize the importance of good sleep hygiene practices, including limiting screen time in the evening.
They also provided this diagram, showing the % of schools with middle or high school start times earlier than 8:30 AM (which is the start time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics).
Here’s a diagram showing the percentage of middle and high school with start times earlier than the recommended start time of 8:30 AM:
Look at that diagram. Imagine if we said that, in the states in dark blue, that 75% of students 11 and up were exposed to a toxic substance in school? Or didn’t have enough to eat? Or if they did not have enough oxygen? Sleeping is a biological function like eating or breathing, yet we routinely tolerate significant sleep restriction in teenagers as if there is nothing we can do about it. The consequences are clear, as is the cure: start school later.
Our greatest natural resource is our youth, and we encourage all superintendents, school board members, and state and federal lawmakers to act now to ensure school start times that protect child health, education, and safety.
Please visit her website to find how out how you can help in your community.
Also, since I am writing this from my vacation, here is a picture of my older son, taken by my friend Jolie: