We’ve all heard the jokes and the sarcastic comments about lazy teenagers who can’t get out of bed: but it’s time we faced up to the facts of the matter. Scientific studies repeatedly conclude that teenagers are not wilfully lazy – they are simply bio-rhythmically challenged. Our bodies release melatonin to help us sleep but adolescent bodies release it three hours later than others, which means their sleep pattern is out of sync with the adults who are interacting with them.
This has caused problems at school where starting times, which are traditionally determined by the requirements of adults, are generally too early for students who have not had sufficient sleep. The lack of sleep affects the teenage brain in similar ways to the adult brain, only more so: sleep deprivation in adolescents diminishes the brain’s ability to learn new infor¬mation, and can lead to emotional issues like depression and aggression.
So shouldn’t we allow schools to vary their times of operation to allow for maximum pupil engagement? At one test school in the USA a later start to the day resulted in startling statistical improvements in SAT tests and a decrease in incidents of anti-social behaviour such as fighting and instances of bullying. Summing up the results, the lead researcher said “Our mornings are a whole lot nicer now!” It looks like adults and teenagers could both reap rewards from an adjustment to school working hours.