Let them be, say experts. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics this week adolescents are biologically programmed to be night owls. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says teenagers’ sleep cycles go forward by about two hours at the onset of puberty.
This means your 13-year-old starts getting sleepy only at about 11 in the evening compared with 9 in the evening when he was 11. So it’s not going to help to try to force him to go to bed earlier.
Based on this research, the AAP has recommended schools should start later in the morning to fit in with teenagers’ sleeping patterns.
Paediatrician and the study’s chief researcher Judith Owen says research clearly shows teens who get too little sleep are more at risk of suffering from obesity, diabetes and depression. “Adolescents who get enough sleep have better grades, higher standardised test scores and an overall better quality of life,” she says.
An AAP task team has revised all previous studies on lack of sleep among teens. They found that anything less than 81/2 to 9 hours’ sleep a night was inadequate for adolescents.
Several factors contribute to teenagers getting too little sleep. These include homework, extramural activities, work and technology. But there’s no disputing the fact that the hormonal changes teens undergo cause a change in their body clock that results in them going to bed later and waking up later.