DELAYED SCHOOL START TIMES
Researchers from the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute will assess whether starting school at 10:00am rather than 09:00am improves academic performance, by allowing teenagers to engage in learning when their biological systems are optimised to do so. This builds on promising pilot work in the UK showing that a delay in the school start time does indeed lead to an improvement in GCSE grades.
Adolescents have a natural biological predisposition to stay up late. In addition, TV screens, tablets and phones emit light at a level which may interfere with sleep onset. Pupils are dealing with the stress of exams and the pressure to perform well. So the team will also look at the effect of sleep education on sleep quality and academic outcomes. They will teach pupils about good bed-time routines, the science behind good sleep-related behaviours, as well as stress-management techniques and how to maintain good sleep during periods of stress.
HOW THE STUDY WILL WORK
The study will recruit 100 schools across the UK. Schools will be randomised to trial either delayed start-times, sleep education, both, or none. This means the team will be able to assess the effects of delaying the start times and education separately, but also see if both interventions have an even greater effect on academic outcome and well-being.
Researchers will also be monitoring sleep patterns in a sub-sample of pupils in each school. This will be done via telemetric devices worn on this wrist. These ‘watches’ give a pseudo-objective measure of sleep, allowing the team to investigate if sleep length improves as a result of the intervention.
The team will then assess how the interventions affect achievement: via circadian timings or via a decrease in sleep deprivation or both.
Researchers will survey the schools involved to assess physical and psychological well-being. This will reveal any secondary benefits of the interventions as it is well established that sleep has a crucial role to play in mood regulation, physical health and perceived quality of life.