The teenagers will be taught about their body clocks and the circadian rhythm which shifts in their teens and again when they reach their twenties. They will also learn about the damaging effects of watching TV or playing video games late at night and how the blue light from screens disrupts their sleep cycle.
The project will involve 100 schools divided into four groups. One will start classes at 10.00 am or later, one group will receive sleep education, one group will have sleep education and start lessons later, and the fourth (control) group will follow the usual school timetable.
Professor Russell Foster hopes to get enough data from the project to enable a definitive view to be reached. He said “Studies in the States have shown that if you start the school day later you can reduce self-harm and truancy and academic performance goes up.”
Pupils’ grades will be measured before and after the interventions and wrist-worn monitors will record sleep patterns. The teenagers’ modes will also be assessed.
One college principal says that “parents have a more relaxed attitude about bedtimes these days and teenagers’ rooms are like entertainment zones. A lot of kids are involved in playing video games against kids from other countries across different time zones so they stay up much later. The 24/7 social media lifestyle is a real issue. If you wake up in the night and find you have to reach for your phone to check what is on, that will prevent you going back to sleep”
Many children are suffering from poor quality or disrupted sleep and as a result are tired and irritable in school. They fuel themselves on caffeine or sugary drinks, and then they can’t sleep. Professor Foster thinks teenagers need nine hours sleep a night for peak intellectual performance.
- Sleep helps consolidate memories, integrates information, and clears toxins from the brain.
- Lack of sleep increases impulsivity, reduces empathy and causes memory difficulties. It also releases hormones which make you feel hungry which contributes to the obesity epidemic.
Not everyone agrees with starting school lessons later. As one head said “We have to prepare pupils for the adult world, which often doesn’t revolve around them”.
Improve your sleep by:
- making sure your bedroom is comfortable and dark with no distracting noises
- have a winding-down routine 60-90 minutes before bedtime. Read a book or play relaxing music. Write a diary or plan the next day.
- switch off all electronic devices and televisions at least an hour before you want to sleep
- don’t use smart phones, iPads or watch TV in bed
- set a regular time to get up and stick to it
- if you are not asleep in 15 minutes go through your winding-down routine again until you feel sleepy
Source: Sunday Times