Based on data from the 2011-12 school year, the CDC found that same pattern in many other states, too.
Only about one-fifth of Washington’s middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later, which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends as a way to help the nation’s sleep-deprived adolescents get enough shut-eye.
Many other states are in the same position, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which looked at school start times in the 2011-12 school year. The CDC reports that in 42 states, 75 to 100 percent of public secondary schools start before 8:30 a.m. In three of them – Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming – all such schools start that early.
Only two states – Alaska and North Dakota — had 75 percent of secondary schools starting at 8:30 a.m. or later.
Locally, the Bellevue, Mercer Island, Northshore and Seattle school districts are discussing moving to later start times. The scientific evidence for doing so is strong, with studies showing that teenagers appear to be more alert later in the day and have trouble falling asleep early. If they don’t get about nine hours of sleep, researchers say, their health, safety, academic performance and quality of life can suffer.
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But there are difficulties in making start-time changes, including finding the money to cover the increased costs of bus transportation.
The CDC makes it clear: Moving to later start times is just one way to help students get more sleep. Parents, it says, should set regular bedtimes, too, and limit light in the evening, whether from electronics or regular room fixtures.
But the CDC also said that later school start times will give teenagers a better opportunity to get the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep they need. Right now, it said, less than a third of students get that much.