SUBURBAN INSIGHTS | Wake Up Call: The Connecticut Suburb That’s Letting Teens Sleep In

May 19, 2023

Looking for a school district that puts kids first and prioritizes their health? Look to Greenwich, one of the first districts to build their high school schedule around teens’ need for sleep.

To kick off our new series, Suburban Insights, Director of Strategy and Emerging Markets Patti Natiss weighs in on a little-known shift one school district has made — and the tremendous impact this small change has made on students’ well-being and performance. Check back for more Suburban Insights each month. 

Innovative, forward-thinking schools top many families’ list of suburban must-haves. And the good news? Many schools in the NYC suburbs have stepped up in a big way, emphasizing the mental and emotional well-being of their students, with curricula that ensure students are best positioned to excel. That includes ensuring kids and teens get enough sleep. 

“Greenwich High School was one of the first high schools in the tri-state to adopt a later start time,” says Patti Natiss, long-time Greenwich resident and Suburban Jungle Director of Strategy and Emerging Markets. “High school starts at 8:30am and goes until 3:00pm. It’s a small change that’s made a massive difference. We’re seeing fewer sick days and better grades.”

The classroom isn’t the only place the district is seeing gains. 

“ACT and SAT scores increased and sports team performance improved after the schedule change was implemented,” Patti says. “The football team was undefeated and made it to state finals, the women’s volleyball teams won state finals, and the school’s Model UN Club won eight awards at the Princeton University Model UN Conference. These outcomes make sense — when students get more sleep, they perform better.”

Why sleep matters — especially for teens 

The research behind Greenwich High School’s start time is clear: Teenagers have a natural shift in their circadian rhythms, so they’re more awake and alert later in the day. That makes it harder for teens to fall asleep — and wake up — earlier. 

This isn’t breaking news, either. American Academy of Pediatrics has been calling for later school start times since 2014, recommending that middle and high schools start at 8:30am or later to ensure students get enough sleep every day. 

And it’s not just teenage circadian rhythms that make a later start time a smart idea. Sleep is essential for teens’ academic achievement, emotional health, and physical health and development. But homework, extracurricular activities, part time jobs, and socializing leave busy teens with too-few hours in the day. So what gives? Often it’s the 8-10 hours of sleep that’s recommended for 13-18-year-olds each night. 

With these benefits, it’s clear Greenwich is a district that listens to the research and puts the health and well-being of its student body first — and we’re confident countless other communities will follow. 

Ready to start your search for a community that’s right for your family? Schedule your strategy session with one of our specialists today.

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