High School Start Time and Migraine Frequency in High School Students

Amy A. Gelfand, Sara Pavitt, Kaitlin Greene, Christina L. Szperka, Samantha Irwin, Barbara Grimes, Isabel E. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate whether later high school start time is associated with lower migraine frequency in high school students with migraine. Background: Adequate sleep is thought to be important in managing adolescent migraine. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends teenagers sleep ≥8 hours/night. Adolescents have a physiologically delayed sleep phase, going to bed, and waking later than children and adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) accordingly recommends high schools start no earlier than 8:30 AM. Methods: Cross-sectional observational study of U.S. high schoolers with migraine. Participants were recruited nationally using social media. Respondents attending high schools starting at 8:30 AM or later were compared to those attending earlier start time schools. The primary outcome was headache days/month. Results: Two hundred and fifty-six subjects constituted the analysis set: 115 later group vs 141 earlier group. Age and sex did not differ. Mean (SD) self-reported headache days/month were 7 (5) vs 8 (7), respectively, (P =.985); mean difference (95% CI for the difference) was −0.8 (−2.3-0.7) days. Median (IQR) self-reported total hours of sleep/school night were: 5.6 (5.0-6.6) vs 5.6 (4.5-6.4), P =.058. Students attending later start time schools woke later (median [IQR] 6:38 AM [55 minutes] vs 6:09 AM [59 minutes], P <.0001) and left home later (median [IQR] 7:28 AM [28 minutes] vs 7:02 AM [60 minutes], P <.0001). Average commute time was also longer: 41 (21) minutes vs 28 (16), P <.0001. The vast majority in both groups reported missing breakfast at least once/week: 103/114 (90.4%) vs 128/141 (90.8%), P =.907. Hours of sleep did not correlate with headache days per month. Conclusion: High school start time does not have a large effect on headache frequency in high schoolers with migraine. Given the high variance in headache days/month observed in this study, a larger study would be needed to determine whether there might still be a small effect of starting high school at/after 8:30 AM. More research is needed to establish evidence-based recommendations about lifestyle factors in adolescent migraine management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1024-1031
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • migraine
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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