Most High Schools Creating ‘Major Public Health Issue’ Disregarding CDC, AAP Recommendations

Most high schools and middle schools in the U.S. are blatantly defying the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, creating a major public health issue, according to a new study. Teen sleeping habits have been the focus of studies for decades now. Last year, the AAP urged high school and middle school administrators to delay the start time of high school and junior high school until at least 8:30 a.m. While school administrators hear the recommendations, little has been done to improve the sleep and waking cycles of teenagers in a way that would be better suited for the teens’ health.

Actually, more than eight out of 10 students in high schools and middle schools in the U.S. start school before the earliest time suggested by the CDC and the AAP, USA Today reported. The reason teens require a later start time isn’t because they are lazy; their internal clocks make it so that it’s extremely difficult for a high school or middle school student to fall asleep before 11 o’clock, according to Science Daily.

“The circadian system and melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, direct a sleep cycle in teens which operates from approximately 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., or later,” School Start Time reported.

A paper published in the journal of Learning, Media and Technology even blamed bad teen behavior on exhaustion. The CDC is even less worried about bad behavior in adolescence though; in its new report about the Center’s study, the CDC blamed early start times in high school and middle school for poorer physical and mental health.

While the health of U.S. students has been the focus of news stories to the point of social media wars this year, according to Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, stated that delaying the start times for high school and middle school students isn’t very feasible because of logistics. He specifically called it a “logistical nightmare” and cited traffic and after-school sporting activities as major reasons that a delayed start time is unlikely to work out.

“This has been going on forever, and kids have been graduating from school and going on to college,” Domenech explained, even though the CDC stated that the early alarm clocks could be causing weight issues and depression among teens.

Domenech stated, though, “It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt them all these years.”

Susan Redline, as the Harvard Professor of Sleep Medicine, said, “Altered timing of eating in shorter sleepers also may be a metabolic stress that contributes to metabolic dysfunction.”

High BMI in childhood has remained constant for 10 years, despite major prevention efforts, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine claims.

Additionally, teens are reportedly most likely to get into trouble in the early afternoon. This is after school lets out but before their parents get home from work. As if these factors weren’t enough, short sleep duration is suspected to play a role in suicides, in part, due to the “negative effects of insufficient sleep on judgment, concentration, and impulse control,” a 2010 article in Sleep pointed out.

Add to the health and behavior concerns, Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that sleep deprivation might even be adding to the risks of fatal car accidents. Owens noted that most high schoolers are chronically sleep deprived, and that “not getting enough sleep at night is the equivalent of consuming three or four beers and being moderately intoxicated. So, teens are getting behind the wheel as impaired as if they had consumed a fair amount of alcohol.” Per mile driven, drivers ages 16 to 19-years-old are three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash, according to data provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute.

Despite the “logistical nightmare,” our neighboring Canadian high schoolers generally start their day sometime between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., according to the Globe and Mail, putting Canadian high schools significantly more in line with the U.S. CDC and AAP recommendations than American high schools.

[Photo via Pixabay]