It’s not even half past seven and your teen is already inside his/her school campus. You have got a long day during schooldays as your day starts by 5 or 5.30 AM and goes on until 10 PM or so. As adults, we can manage and accommodate to these commitments but teenagers who are in their maximum growth stage need enough rest to develop into mature adults. Owing to several reasons adolescents today face one of the commonest chronic health problems-sleep deprivation.
Sleep Cycle of Adolescents
Research shows that teens require around 9 ¼ hours of sleep for optimal performance, good health and mind-body development. This has not been achieved by more than 90% teens during the past decades as these poor kids get less than 7 hours of sleep during schooldays which makes them feel tired and drained out by the end of each day. Common reasons for poor sleep schedules include busy school schedules, ample after-school activities and above all, a battle between early school hours and the biological changes that puts every teen on a late sleep-wake clock. The biological changes in circadian rhythm of the teen during puberty years prevents them from going to bed early to fulfill the required sleeping hours before school starts early. Such sleep deprivations creates a problem everywhere-at school where teenagers lack concentration, potential problem solving skills and succumb to stress, at home where they feel irritable and frustrated generally, may put on weight as they don’t engage in regular physical activity and there are also chances that these teens start relying on cigars and alcohol to cope up with these things in life. Circadian rhythm, discussed elaborately at www.firsteatright.com, can have life-altering effects on us in more ways than you can imagine.
Enforcing Natural Sleep by Altering School Hours
A group of concerned researchers wanted to find out if kids could sleep more peacefully if there were any changes made to the school timings. To experiment this, they involved 15,000 high school students in grades 6-11 who filled in online surveys during school hours both, before and after school timings were changed. Questioned mostly involved those on sleep such as weekday and weekend bed timings, wake up timings, total sleep hours, quality of sleep, issues with sleepiness and overall performance. While 46% reported sleepiness to study or finish their schoolwork, the ratio declined greatly to 35% after there was a delay in school start timings in middle school students. In high school students, the percentage reduced from 71% to 56% which is an excellent improvement in statistics with altered school timings. Many of the students were glad about this change as they reported getting an extra hour of sleep than previously. This extra 60 minutes brings about radical changes in their health, wellness, mood swings, academic performance and mindset, all for the positive. The researchers also made a similar kind of study on these schoolteachers too curious about the effect of altered school timings on their personal wellness-this was the first study to focus on the effects of altered school timings on the staff and teachers. These staff too reported improvements in their daytime performance as they got to sleep for longer comparatively.
Changes in school timings therefore not only help the children sleep more and perform better but also has positive effects on staff and teachers as well. Of course, altering school timings is not a simple thing as it involves an array of other people-parents, teachers, principal, healthcare workers, helpers, counselors and more people. More than the student as an individual the decision affects an entire community of people who need to pool in together and make the right decision.
Teens these days are ok with the lack of sleep accepting it as their lifestyle. By this, they are doing a big mistake-sleep is not an option but a need. Regulating school timings and postponing them by an hour or so (maybe from 7.30 am to 8.30 am) helps them sleep more and be more effective. If this doesn’t work out, they need to consciously make a decision to go to bed early to get their required hours of sleep every day. Main players in this involve parents who can be a teen’s role model by maintaining regular bedtime routines, banning the use of electronic gadgets into the bedroom before sleep timings and creating a comfortable environment with dim lights.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.