BROOKFIELD — High school student Madeline O’Connor often gets six to seven hours of sleep a night. She is busy with school, 2 1/2 hours of swim practice and three hours of homework each day.

“It’s really hard to get everything done and try to get a good amount of sleep,” O’Connor, the student representative to the Board of Education, told members Wednesday night. “I find myself going to bed at midnight, a little after, in order to get all my hours of homework done.”

Dr. Craig Canapari, director of the Yale pediatric sleep center, said O’Connor is the perfect example of a sleep deprived teen who could benefit from school starting later.

Teens need 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night, and their natural sleep schedule is from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., Canapari said. The average high school start time in the country is 8:04 a.m., while Brookfield High School opens at 7:15 a.m.

“This is a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation for kids,” Canapari said. “They just can’t catch up.”

This is one of the reasons the board established Wednesday night an ad hoc subcommittee to explore changing school start times. Board members first floated the idea last school year, and the superintendent has proposed hiring a consultant for $30,000 to help the district.

Newtown pushed its high school start time to 8 a.m. last school year, while Ridgefield has considered a change but delayed implementing it. Bethel is also looking at the issue.

Superintendent John Barile said the issue is critical for the district.

“I have to applaud the board for moving in this direction because anything that’s going to improve the physical and mental health of our students is what we need to be studying very seriously,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more important.”

Canapari, who helped Guilford change its school start times, presented to the board about the negative effects lack of sleep has on teens.

He said sleep deprivation hurts students’ academic performance and increases the risks for health problems, such as obesity and diabetes. It also correlates with stress, increased drug use, decreased impulse control, earlier sexual activity and possibly suicide, Canapari said.

“Kids don’t have to be unhappy and stressed all the time,” he said. “One of the ways we can help them with this is by ensuring they get enough sleep.”

Yet, only 8 percent of girls and 9 percent of boys sleep enough, according to a survey of 12,000 teens that Canapari referenced.

“It’s crazy to me to think that this is the law of the land here in the United States,” he said.

One of the obstacles schools face when tackling the issue is the fear that a later start time would hurt athletics, Canapari said.

But he said high school athletes are at a higher risk of injury when they get less than eight hours of sleep. They also perform better on more sleep, he said.

“If you’re a high school coach, don’t you want this advantage for your athletes?” Canapari said.

Rosa Fernandes, board member, will chair the subcommittee. She said the committee will likely be large because the change would affect many facets of the community.

Administrators, parents, teachers, school board members, the bus company and representatives from the local private schools could be involved.

“That kind of representation is necessary,” Fernandes said.