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article imageAre kids in the U.S. starting the school day too early?

By Tim Sandle     Aug 10, 2015 in Health
Washington - Too many children in the U.S. are starting the school day too early, according to a new report. As a consequence, kids are not getting a sufficient amount of sleep and this is impacting their educational performance.
Based on a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, only one in five middle and high schools in the U.S. began the school day at, of after, the recommended 8:30 a.m. start time. Starting school too early reduces the amount of sleep a child can get and it impacts health, safety, and academic success.
The theory is that schools that have a start time of 8.30 a.m. allows adolescent students the opportunity to achieve 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Insufficient sleep is linked with health risks like being overweight, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs. It also leads to poor school grades.
The low rate of recommended start times is based on the 2011-2012 Schools and Staffing Survey, where some 40,000 children were assessed. Comparing the data with that of 2007 indicates that very little change has taken place.
The worst offending areas were Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming. In these states not a single school started at 8.30 a.m. or after. Louisiana has the earliest average start time, which was 7.40 a.m. The state averaging the latest start time was Alaska, which clocked in at 8.33 a.m.
Discussing the findings, Anne Wheaton of the CDC, talking with Medscape, said: “Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance. Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need.”
The researchers acknowledge that changing start times will not be an easy task. They note that obstacles include: “concerns about increased transportation costs…potential for traffic congestion…difficulty in scheduling after-school activities… lack of education in some communities about the importance of sleep.”
The findings have been published in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The research is headed “School Start Times for Middle School and High School Students — United States, 2011–12 School Year.”
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