Why Sleeping In an Extra Hour Spelled Success for One UK School

Allowing teenagers an extra hour of sleep in the morning resulted in better grades and fewer absences.

Since October 2009, teens attending Monkseaton high school on Tyneside in northeast England have started their lessons at 10 a.m., an hour later than usual, in order to see how a sleeping-in might affect their performance Britain's Times reports.

Research is ongoing, but principal Paul Kelly is already encouraged by the changes he’s seen at the school, which include an 8% drop in general absenteeism and a 27% drop in persistent absenteeism, as well as significant improvements in Math and English grades.

The Monkseaton experiment is being monitored by Professor Russell Foster, a neuroscientist at Oxford University who has conducted extensive research into teenage body clocks.

"Teenagers have a biological predisposition to go to bed late and to get up late, so if you can start the school day later you should do so," he says. The reason? The sleep promoting hormone melatonin kicks in differently in teenage brains leading to a shift in sleep patterns and later waking times.

Foster further advocates that more demanding lessons should take place in the afternoon to coincide with optimum teenage concentration levels. "Monkseaton is the critical trial," he says. "The data shows test scores going up significantly ⎯ by around 10% ⎯ with a combination of later start times and moving more difficult GCSE (UK exam) lessons to the afternoon when teenagers’ concentration is higher."

"We are setting the time of the school to the biological time of the kids," Principal Kelley says. "We have moved from a situation where it is absolutely intolerable for some kids to get up very early in the morning to one where they can manage to wake up and be alert for lessons at 10 a.m."

Other academic studies have already confirmed the benefits of allowing teens longer sleep times. One study from Columbia University, highlighted by Tonic in January, reported that getting enough sleep was linked to good mental health in teens.

A full evaluation of the Monkseaton trial is expected to appear next year and the school will decide in June if they plan to continue with the late starts. Until then Monkseaton’s teens will continue hitting the snooze button.


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1 Comments

  • Michelle Chun-Hoon

    Very interesting! Its nice to see that schools are adapting to the new generations habits. Sleep is very important. I remember coming to work on 2 hours of sleep and nothing seemed real. I wonder if this trend will leak into the U.S.