Later school start may reduce migraines for high school students, study says

Nov. 25 (UPI) — Starting the school day later could aid high school students with migraine headaches, a study published Wednesday journal Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

Subjects whose school day started prior to 8:30a.m. reported more migraines days — averaging 7.7 per month — than those who began later, who had nearly three fewer headache days, said researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

The researchers attributed the results in part to the natural body clock of high school students, which tend to favor late-to-bed, early-to-rise habits.

“Evidence suggests that there is a relationship between sleep and migraine,” said study lead author Dr. Amy Gelfand.

“Getting adequate sleep and maintaining a regular sleep schedule may reduce the frequency of migraines,” said Gelfand, a neurologist in the Pediatric Headache Program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

She noted that between 8% and 12% of adolescents suffer from migraines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start school days no earlier than 8:30 a.m., but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that only 18% of public middle and high schools follow the recommendation.

In 2019, California was the first state to mandate that schools open no earlier than 8:30 a.m., a schedule adjustment slated to begin in 2022.

The test involved about 1,000 students with criteria-appropriate migraine headaches in local 9th through 12th grades, who submitted a brief survey.

It indicated that the average number of days with headaches was 7.7 per month for those whose school day started before 8:30 a.m., and 4.8 days per month for the later-starting group.

“The magnitude of the effect size in this study is similar to that seen in studies of migraine prevention drugs,” Gelfand said.

“For example, in a trial of topiramate [known as Topamax] versus placebo in 12-to 17-year-olds with episodic migraine, those receiving the drug had an average of two migraine days in the last month, compared with 3.5 migraine days for those on placebo, a difference of 1.5 days,” Gelfand said.

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