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CDC: Schools start too early and jeopardize student health

Craig Clough | August 7, 2015

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sleepy studentA recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that fewer than one in five of the nation’s middle and high schools start the day at 8:30 a.m. or later, a time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a report last year, the Academy concluded that insufficient sleep in adolescents and teens is “an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students.”

Students who do not get 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep per night are at an increased risk for a number of health problems, the study said, yet few schools seem to be taking the issue seriously. According to the CDC, insufficient sleep with school-aged children is associated with obesity, poor academic performance, depression and an increased risk for alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

Nearly two out of three students are getting insufficient sleep, according to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report.

A random check of LA Unified start times found that five high schools in five different parts of the district all rang the first bell at 8 a.m. or sooner. Earlier start times are commonplace in California, as the CDC found it was one of 42 states in which 75-to-100 percent of the public schools start before 8:30 a.m.

CDC and U.S. Department of Education researchers reviewed data from nearly 40,000 schools from the 2011-2012 Schools and Staffing Survey to determine school start times.

“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance,” Anne Wheaton, Ph.D., lead author and epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health, said in statement. “Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”

Among other key findings, the study found that the average start time across the nation was 8:03 a.m., with Louisiana having the earliest average school start time (7:40 a.m.) and Alaska the latest (8:33 a.m.)

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