School Start Time Conference - Session 09:

National Surveillance Data on Adolescent Sleep and School Start Times - Anne Wheaton, PhD


I learned so much. Thank you!
— School District Superintendent

Anne Wheaton, PhD, Senior Service Fellow/Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Wheaton discusses the CDS’s contribution to the national conversation on adolescent sleep.  The CDC’s Sleep Health Program goals are to increase public awareness of the importance of healthy sleep, promote healthy sleep policies, and improve sleep-related national surveillance survey data at the state and national levels.  The US Department of Health and Human Services' initiative, "Healthy People 2020,"  introduced the goal of raising the percentage of high school students who get at least 8 hours of sleep at night.  A 2015 baseline indicated that only about 25% of high school students currently achieve that goal.  

Dr. Wheaton presents the results of the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey that found a positive association between short sleep duration and obesity, suicide ideation, and health-risk behaviors such as cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use.  The CDC also reports a positive association between short sleep duration and injury-related behaviors such as drinking and driving, and texting and driving.

With respect to school start times, Dr. Wheaton presents results of a CDC survey of school start times on a state-by-state basis.  In aggregate, 83% of middle school and high schools in the US start before the medically recommended time of 8:30am, with a 2014 CDC survey indicating that 93% of US high schools start before 8:30am.

Dr. Wheaton succinctly states the  CDC's view on the role changing school start times can play in improving adolescent sleep health:  "Among the possible public-health interventions for increasing efficient sleep among adolescents, delaying school start times provides the potential for the greatest population impact by changing the environmental context for students in entire school districts.”  

Anne G. Wheaton, PhD
Anne Wheaton is an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta as a member of the Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She received her doctorate in the Nutrition and Health Sciences program at Emory University in 2009 and began a postdoctoral fellowship at CDC on sleep that same year. Since then, she has published numerous reports on adult and adolescent sleep and has worked on improving CDC’s collection of sleep-related data through its surveillance systems.