Sleep is a basic need. It is a critical component of mental and physical health and the ability to learn.
Teens need 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep a night and they need it at the right time - their body clocks shift later, so getting to bed earlier than about 11PM is not a viable option.
The majority of New Canaan teens are getting 7 or fewer hours of sleep.
About 40% of New Canaan teens are getting 6 or fewer hours. In his book “Why We Sleep” Matthew Walker, PhD writes, “Sleep six hours or less and you are short-changing the brain of a learning restoration benefit that is normally performed by sleep spindles. I will return to the broader educational ramifications of these findings in a later chapter, addressing the question of whether early school start times, which throttle precisely this spindle-rich phase of sleep, are optimal for the teaching of young minds.”
Our teens are chronically sleep-deprived and chronic sleep-deprivation is harmful.
Sleep-deprived teens are less able to deal with stress, less resilient and more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and behave impulsively.
Sleep also has a profound impact on learning - we need sleep to effectively process and store new information. It is counter-productive to send a sleep-deprived child to school. Without the REM sleep of the early morning (5am-7am) hours, our teens are not as creative or as able to build connections between things they have learned as they could be.
Drowsy teen drivers are also a safety concern - there are more accidents caused by drowsy driving than alcohol and drugs combined.
Our teens cannot get adequate sleep with the current school schedule.
To do nothing is to continue to do harm to our teens. It also foolishly neglects to reap the many benefits of adequate sleep.
None of this is our opinion. Every major medical organization has recommended middle and high school start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.. Read the American Academy of Pediatrics paper on adolescent sleep and school start times for more information.