Blog article by Paul Hastings
I have noticed that the Wellcome Foundation is engaged in a number of Education research projects with schools and universities. One project being conducted by Durham University focuses on Teensleep.
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. 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 studies aim to address these problems by training teachers to deliver sleep education as part of their Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) lessons. This programme will promote good ‘sleep hygiene’, which includes avoiding caffeine and blue light in the evening. Wellcome Foundation are funding the Teensleep project to explore the impact of later school start times. There is strong evidence from trials in the USA that this can have a positive impact on academic attainment, behaviour and health. Unfortunately, the timetabling challenges for schools was too great meaning that insufficient schools signed up to the project. Later starts for schools in the morning may of course, in the future, benefit teenagers, teachers, parents and reduce traffic congestion. Teensleep is one of a number of research exercises by Wellcome often using knowledge gained in neuroscience to help improve our understanding of the learning process and enable teachers and learners to benefit from these insights.