Teenagers need more sleep, say experts

A leading body clock expert has claimed that students really do need a lie-in of an hour or two in the morning…..click & see

Neuroscience research suggests that the typical morose and sulky   Kevin the teenager  is someone who deserves our understanding, sympathy and help more than an early morning alarm call.

Scientists are beginning to understand why teenagers can turn from sweet, adorable boys and girls into a spotty, unpredictable and combustible blend of truculence, arrogance and moodiness. It is, research has shown, not just to do with sleep deprivation but profound changes taking place in their brains.

The teenage brain is a  work in progress   and needs extra sleep, according to Professor Russell Foster, a   chronobiologist  at Oxford University.

Teenagers have long complained they are too tired to get up in the morning and that starting school early is cruel. Some adults blame the griping on the fact that many teenagers stay up late to do homework, take part in marathon telephone sessions or play computer games.

But work by Professor Till Roenneberg and colleagues at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich has shown that sleep timing changes markedly as we age, said Foster. By the time of puberty, bed times and wake times drift to later and later hours. The tendency to get up later continues until about the age of 19.5 years in women and 20.9 years in men.

“On the basis of this data, we know teens want to go to bed two hours later than 40 to 50-year-olds, and in 10 per cent there is a four-hour delay,   said Foster. In other words, they are biologically programmed to want to stay under the duvet.

Mary Carskadon, the director of sleep research at EP Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island, America, has shown that among US teenagers, on average 25 per cent get fewer than six-and-a-half hours sleep a night.

She estimates that to be optimally alert teenagers need about nine hours of sleep. Studies by Carskadon with colleagues at the University of Toronto have suggested that a later starting time for school would greatly improve alertness and the mental abilities of teenagers during their morning lessons.

Foster said teenagers would not need such long lie-ins if they could “improve sleep hygiene.

That would mean, for example, going to bed at the same time each day, keeping their bedrooms cool and banning computers, lights and televisions.

But that is not always easy, as Foster knows first hand from his own children: Charlotte, 17, Victoria, 13, and most of all from his 15-year-old, William.

“Do they listen to me? They laugh at me most of time,” he confessed.

The basic problem is that society takes no account of the maturation of the teenage brain.

MRI scans of adolescent brains conducted over the past decade have revealed that not only is there major reorganisation in the teenage brain but it continues to develop until the early twenties.

Among the most sleep deprived are teenagers and an increasing body of evidence from sleep researchers suggests that relatively minor changes in the way we time educational activities could have major benefits,   said Foster.

Source:The Telegraph (Kolkata,India)

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