Though the idea is nothing new, a recent article found in New Scientist is arguing that teenagers, known for enjoying colossal amounts of sleep, should have at least one extra hour in bed on a morning.
Ever since the Daily Mail reported the issue in 2007, the idea has in fact been taken seriously as in 2010, a college in Newcastle experimented with the idea of starting lessons one hour later than usual.
Fascinatingly, simply by starting their classes at 10 am, an ‘uptick’ in academic performance occurred throughout the year.
Across the water in the United States, similar experiments have also occurred where school times have been changed for older students.
“The study reveals that attendance rates improved significantly when the high schools initiated the later start time; this suggests that changing start times is one way to recapture those students who might otherwise not complete high school.”
Not only that, but contrary to what both parents and teachers expected -which was that students would merely go to be an hour later- teens were found to make good use of the extra hour and chose not to stay up any later than usual.
But why do teenagers need an extra hour in bed?
Like all other mammals, our sleeping patterns change as we get older. Though the transition between baby and teen is quite possibly the biggest leap for our biological clocks, our need for sleep changes throughout our adult life too.
Russell Foster, a professor of circadian neuroscience, argues the case for teenagers to be left in bed:
“As puberty begins, bedtimes and waking times get later. This trend continues until 19.5 years in women and 21 in men. Then it reverses. At 55 we wake at about the time we woke prior to puberty.
“On average, this is two hours earlier than adolescents. This means that for a teenager, a 7 am alarm call is the equivalent of a 5 am start for a person in their 50s.”
Mary Carskadon of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, argues that teenagers need around 9 hours of sleep per night to be able to maintain full alertness and academic performance.
This means for example, that if a teen was to wake for school at 7am, he or she would need to be in bed by at least 10 o’clock every night.
As we all know, sleep is fundamentally important and it is important to remember that sleep is not a consequence of our culture, but rather a biological need of our bodies.
In fact, one study found that young men who slept only 4 hours a week on 6 consecutive nights yielded insulin levels comparable to those suffering from early stages of diabetes.
So what can you do for your teen?
Though turning up late for school or college may not go down well with the teachers, there are a few hints and tips which can help any lethargic teen lead a more active life.
- Steer them away from televisions, mobile phones or laptop lights before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine in the evening, or better yet, after lunch, as caffeine can stay within our systems from anything between 8 to 14 hours.
- Try to get them not to nap during the day as this can throw them off of their sleeping pattern.