Hey parents: Give Junior a break! He’s tired all the time for a reason. Don’t knock him for napping until you’ve read this: Most teens don’t get enough sleep and suffer in their school work because their internal clock makes them night owls. So says an Australian study showing that the average teenager misses up to an hour of sleep at night and wakes up 2.5 hours earlier than their naturals rhythms dictate.
According to researchers, a teenager secretes melatonin–the hormone responsible for causing drowsiness–later in the evening than adults and children do; and they are thus more alert during the evening hours, leading to their greatest productivity. Furthermore, ambient light–the type of light given off by computer screens–actually decreases melatonin secretion causing even less drowsiness. So teenagers working at night on computers will be even more likely to stay up late.
I talk extensively about melatonin and sleep inducement in my new book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health. Since I believe that getting sufficient sleep is one of the main ingredients of great health, naturally I’m inclined to support teens in their unique circadian rhythms. An excellent solution to counter-balance poor performance in schools would be to start classes at 10am and finish at five in the evening. I’ll bet most high schoolers would welcome the later schedule and I’ll even bet some teachers would dig it too. And just think how positively it would impact big city traffic.
Without a doubt, teenager need adequate sleep. If their natural rhythms run a little later than our own, let’s honor that and start treating high schoolers like college preps. It’ll help their academics and it’ll be healthier for them–isn’t that purpose and benefit of doing research? to understand truth and then apply it? If nothing else, give Junior a break if he wants to sleep in on the weekends–it’s his rhythm.