But later on, at around 10 pm, I’ll be wide awake! Why is that? How does that make sense? Simply put, I am a teenager.
See, teenage brains are built differently than adults’, or even children’s, brains.
As teenagers’ brains develop, our sleep-wake cycles change a little bit. We tend to fall asleep later and wake up later than any other age group. We also need, on average, around 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep at the minimum.
So because of our natural tendency to sleep later, we sleep later. But because of school, we wake up much earlier than we should be. Biological clocks, combined with extracurricular activities and busy homework schedules, some teens report getting as little as 5 hours of sleep a night.
This lack of sleep leads to many, many problems such as impulse control or mental illness.
A human being’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain used for making decision, is only fully developed into their early to mid 20’s. This is why teens are impulsive by nature. Add to this a lack of sleep and a depressive episode and you get quite a scary situation.
Last year, my school decided to test this theory and changed our starting time to an hour later for about 3 weeks. Instead of starting at 7:30 AM, we started at 8:30 AM.
It was only an hour’s difference but it worked wonders for students. Everyone was in a better mood, we paid more attention in all our classes, we were more cooperative with the teachers. Best of all, by the end of the month, our grades had improved by at least 30%.
Aside from my observations, this phenomenon has been scientifically proven (University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement). Teenagers function much better on later school start times and are able to perform better academically and in sports or extracurriculars.
Teenagers simply are not built to function so early in the morning. There are, of course, the exceptions. In general, we like our sleep and we’d appreciate getting as much of it as posssible.