This project has been funded as part of a joint initiative with the Wellcome Trust to explore how insights from neuroscience can be used to improve education. You can read more about this here.

There is growing evidence that teenagers’ academic attainment is hampered by a lack of sleep. Adolescent circadian rhythms (the body clock that manages the cycle of sleep and wakefulness) are delayed by approximately two hours compared to adults’, so current school start times often force teenagers to wake up and learn whilst their body is still prepared for sleep. This biological predisposition for delayed sleep is exacerbated by a more relaxed societal attitude regarding bedtimes, 24/7 access to social media and abnormal light exposure from a range of electrical devices.

Teensleep will aim to address these problems by training teachers to deliver sleep education as part of their Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) lessons and assisting schools to move their start times to 10am. 

Why are we funding it?

There is strong evidence from trials in the USA that later school start times can have a positive impact on academic attainment, behaviour and health. There have been several UK pilots of later school start times, which suggest that the approach is feasible, but this will be the first large randomised controlled trial in UK schools. If the proposed interventions are found to be effective, then the evidence will exist to support the introduction of both later start times and the sleep education programmes across the UK school system. 

How are we evaluating it?

Teensleep is being evaluated by a team from the Trials Unit at the University of York. The grantee will initially undertake a developmental and pilot stage to refine the intervention in around 6 schools in the first year and collect some qualitative feedback regarding the feasibility of implementing later school start times. This will be followed by a randomised controlled trial in 100 schools. The primary outcome will be attainment at Key Stage 4 and the University of Oxford team will collect data on a range of physiological outcomes.

When will the evaluation report be due?

The evaluation report will be published in September 2018.