Teenagers are the walking (or rather, slumping) definition of sleep deprivation these days. Going to sleep during the wee hours of the morning and having to crawl up early to go to school, students are facing harder physical challenges simply by fighting the urge to fall asleep in class and trying to concentrate. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenage circadian rhythms are actually different from those of young children and adults. The school hours we have now are set according to adult biological clocks – but is this the best schedule for teens?
According to the Better Health Channel, the human circadian rhythm shifts forwards in adolescence due to puberty hormones. This means that teens will feel sleepy an hour or two later than an adult would. That explains why teens are still perky and awake at 11pm, disregarding the massive piles of schoolwork and the lure of social networking sites. Teens also tend to wake up later than the average adult, but early school hours have made this impossible for most.
Here are some of the starting times for international school in Beijing:
· The Western Academy of Beijing: 8.30am
· Beijing BISS International School: 8.15am
· International School of Beijing: 8.15am
· Yew Chung International School of Beijing: 8am
Students usually have to wake up more than an hour earlier to get ready and make their way to school. This amounts to waking up earlier than 7am for five days a week during the academic year. Now if most teenagers went to bed past midnight, this would mean that they’re getting less than seven hours of sleep.
Scientific studies have shown that teens need about nine hours and 15 minutes of sleep to function best, which means that teens are going to school and being crammed with information they can’t process as well as they could. There are also severe physical and mental health issues linked to sleep deprivation, such as depression, narcolepsy, insomnia, mood swings, a greater likelihood of eating unhealthy foods (sweets and fried foods especially), and higher levels of insulin resistance that leads to the development of diabetes. Rather counter-productive, wouldn’t you say?
This leads to my final point: Schools should shift their hours to start later in order to fit the teenage biological clock. If school started even just an hour later (at 9am), middle and high school students would be able to concentrate and perform better. If we want students to get the most out of their classes, they should be in top shape –not turn up every morning like members of the “walking dead.”
Photo by *Farm3* of Flickr
Freda Zhao is a beijingkids intern (of the month) currently studying at the Western Academy of Beijing. She is one year from graduating high school. Outside of school work, she enjoys reading, painting, and mimicking cat sounds in her backyard (to draw strays to her house and feed them)