School Start Times for Middle School and High School Students

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Author(s): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Published: Aug. 7, 2015

Report Intro/Brief:
"Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight; not engage in daily physical activity; suffer from depressive symptoms; engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs; and perform poorly in school. However, insufficient sleep is common among high school students, with less than one third of U.S. high school students sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights. In a policy statement published in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged middle and high schools to modify start times as a means to enable students to get adequate sleep and improve their health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life. AAP recommended that "middle and high schools should aim for a starting time of no earlier than 8:30 a.m.".

To assess state-specific distributions of public middle and high school start times and establish a pre-recommendation baseline, CDC and the U.S. Department of Education analyzed data from the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). Among an estimated 39,700 public middle, high, and combined schools* in the United States, the average start time was 8:03 a.m. Overall, only 17.7% of these public schools started school at 8:30 a.m. or later. The percentage of schools with 8:30 a.m. or later start times varied greatly by state, ranging from 0% in Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming to more than three quarters of schools in Alaska (76.8%) and North Dakota (78.5%). 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."