Study Says Schools Too Early For Teens
An old adage may need to be rearranged to state, “let sleeping kids lie.” The latest research involving teens and sleep says that school schedules break up an important sleep routine.
The findings come from a joint effort between Northwestern University and Evanston Township High School in Illinois, producing “I told you so” smiles on teens (and former teens) everywhere.
When teens reach high school age, their bodies begin a hormonal change to their biological clocks. A new cycle is created by delayed production of melatonin, a hormone that triggers sleep, in what researchers call “circadian rhythms” which controls when the kids become sleepy and when they wake up.
Research is suggesting that these circadian rhythms tend to make them go to bed later and wake up later.
If you know or have been a teenager, then you know that it is (was) often very difficult to get to sleep at night.
The study showed that students between 12 and 15 lost an average of two hours sleep on weeknights. This caused them to be groggy, cranky, and to perform poorly at schools that began at 8:00 AM or earlier.
In what researchers referred to as an “epidemic of sleep deprivation among adolescents,” sixty teenagers kept sleep diaries reporting an average of 8.7 hours of sleep during the summer, and only 7 hours during the school year.
The study also involved an advanced placement biology class taken by all students involved at 8:10 AM, 10 AM, or 1 PM. Performance seemed better in the later classes as students were more alert and didn’t have to work as hard at the material.
Martha Hansen, who taught the biology classes and is lead author of the study, said that early morning scholars “tend to be passive and sleepy. They’re not as talkative and don’t ask as many questions. It looks like we’re pumping them out of their cycle when we start them at 8 a.m.,” ”
In addition, the study found a correlation between car accidents as well an increased propensity to smoke cigarettes when the sleep cycle was interrupted.
The findings suggest that parents and teachers should be more patient with teenagers’ body clocks, as sleeping later seems to be a natural and healthy activity that improves performance.