Both West Hartford and Simsbury are evaluating calls to start high school classes later in the morning, according to the Associated Press - potentially recognizing established science that says such a move would be more in line with adolescent sleep cycles.
Sarah Raskin, a Trinity College neuroscience professor, said that sleep cycles are controlled by hormones and that starting during puberty, those hormones shift.
Adolescents’ brains “are just not capable of falling asleep before 11 o’clock at night. So if you’re not falling asleep until 11 o’clock at night and you’re not ready to be awake until 8 in the morning, it becomes extremely difficult to be up at 5:30 or 6 at the bus stop and at school by 7 or 7:30 and ready to do calculus or physics or whatever else we expect them to do at 7:30 in the morning.”
Raskin added, “What we’re forcing our children to do is get into bed before they’re ready, lay there wide awake staring at the ceiling until 11 or 11:30 at night and then we force them to get up right in the middle of one of their deepest sleep cycles.”
So how can we expect them to do their best work?
We recognize that there are many obstacles to changing school start times - bus schedules, after-school athletics and, probably most important, inertia. So we’re glad to see that these two high-performing schools are considering this important scientific finding.
Their teens are already educational leaders. Perhaps, if a later start time boosts their academic performance still more, others will follow their lead.