Most of us who either had or have a teenager in the house, experience that they have a strong urge to be awake late at night and consequently sleeping long past what we consider reasonable in the morning. This daily cycle is not a good match with school schedules, that often requires them to attend earlier in the morning, the older the teenagers become. But who is at fault here?
Is it the irresponsible teenager with bad sleeping patters, or is it the school schedules traditional love for early risers?
New scientific results indicate that it is the schools schedule that is out of rhythm with teenager’s biological clock. Melatonin is a natural hormone created by the pineal gland in the brain, and regulates sleep and wakefulness. During adolescence, the production of melatonin in fact begins later in the evening, which delays the feeling of being sleepy and postpones the time the teenagers wake up.
Monkseaton High School in Tyneside UK, performed an experiment where they changed their schedule to be more in sync with the teenager’s biological rhythm. Instead of beginning school at 0900, then began at 1000. This led to some remarkable findings by the scientists, including a neuroscientist from Oxford. Significantly fewer students were late for class, and long-term absence was drastically reduced.
Furthermore, the grades had been significantly improved compared to before the experiment. The principle of the school believes that the this was caused by the time shift, as they did nothing else different during the experiment. By avoiding education when teenagers brains not has woken up, the learning outcomes are drastically improved.
So, why is the sleeping pattern shifted during adolescence?
A lot of science points in the direction that the brain is going through a great transformation during this period. First when the brain has matured, around age 19-21, does this trend reverse, and people feel sleepy earlier in the evening again.