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.

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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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