• Question: How are you going to make a change to school timetables and in delaying school times, like you claim?

    Asked by Sara to Rachel on 15 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Rachel Sharman

      Rachel Sharman answered on 15 Nov 2018:

      Hi Sara, great question and I’m still trying to figure this out.
      We know Teens in the UK are not sleeping great, we found teens to have around 7hrs sleep in our schools. We also saw a pattern in all 10 schools of too short weekday sleep and long weekend sleep.

      When we started our study two years ago we tried to get schools to start at 10am and finish at 4. The problem became teachers schedules, parents work and school buses. I still think colleges and sixth forms should start later and that’s where I want to start getting data to see if it helps as well as we think it will by improving grades, performance, and health. I also want to see exams moved later in the day.
      For secondary schools we had trained teachers to teach a 10 lesson programme aimed to teach students how to study sleep, why it’s important, sleep tips, and relaxation techniques. It did help students who had poor sleep at the beginning however it did not make them have that magical 8-10hrs sleep.
      So we know we need to do something else. We are writing a grant, which is how we apply for money as a scientist, to look at timetabling. Could we put a free period first thing or drama or pe and move the more academic lessons to later. Could we use our knowledge of jet lag to help teens by changing the light structure of the classroom to make students feel more alert? We just don’t have the data in the UK yet!
      Most importantly, no one has asked UK teens what is stopping them from getting enough sleep. So if I won, one of the things I would do is go to some schools, show students how to measure sleep, get them to run a sleep study on their school and find out what they need to get better sleep. That would give us an amazing place to start trying to help UK teenagers.

      It’s a very very challenging research area but something that I think is so so necessary! Our project is called Teensleep and we have a YouTube called what makes you tick.