Are you the sort of person who dreads the alarm going off in the morning? Perhaps you often find that you feel tired when you wake up, or that you start to feel the need to sleep by the afternoon? You are not alone, as it is believed that many teenagers around the world are struggling to get enough sleep at night. While your lifestyle will certainly play a part in this (staying up late at a party for example), there is also plenty of research that shows how the sleep needs of teenagers differs from at other times in your life – in fact, meaning that you may actually need more sleep now than when you were younger! Rather than following a simple rule that says you need less sleep as you get older, it seems that people’s need for sleep varies at different ages. Plus, tiredness can have a negative impact on your ability to learn – perhaps more so than you realised.
While you may think that the longer you stay up, the more you will need to sleep, recent research has shown things are not quite this simple. Anyone who has suddenly found themselves feeling more awake at night all of a sudden, or who finds themselves feeling tired only to wake up when they go to bed will understand this. This is all down to your biological clock, and how it operates at different stages of your life.
For example, research has found that children under 10 generally wake up feeling fresh and ready to get on with the day, while teenagers may find that they suddenly feel alert at around 9 or 10 at night, even if they were feeling a bit sleepy earlier, meanwhile middle aged people tend to find themselves feeling sleepier earlier than their teenage children.
Tiredness is a real issue when it comes to learning, especially among teenagers who need more sleep than they did as children – in fact, as much as nine and a quarter hours per night! Most teenagers will no doubt find that they aren’t getting this much sleep every night, all of which cause that familiar feeling of tiredness first thing in the morning and also the ‘mid-afternoon slump!’ Despite this, the body clock of teenagers may still see them perk up at night, even though they felt tired earlier in the day.
That is not all that may be stopping you from getting a good night’s rest, as studies have shown that having a dirty bedroom may be harming your ability to get a good night’s rest!
Lack of sleep has shown to have a negative impact on learning as your brain is not given the chance to properly process the information you took in during the day. Studies have shown that sleep allows us to consolidate and store the things we have learnt during the day – and that in fact we may actually continue to learn while we sleep.
Groups of teenagers were given a learning task and then told to get differing amounts of sleep from one-another. The results showed that those who got enough sleep actually tested better than they originally had, while those who didn’t get enough showed no improvement, or even a drop in achievements. These tests worked equally for physical tasks, like catching a ball on a string in a cone, to academic tests such as in maths or science. Basically, sleep helps you to learn – and if you don’t get enough your standards will start to slip. You may think that you can use productivity hacks to help your study, but without enough sleep that information simply won’t stay with you as easily.
You may also think that you can repay your ‘sleep debt’ by lying in until late on the weekends, but it is far better to get enough regular sleep instead. Sleeping in on the weekends, may leave you feeling a little more refreshed, but it won’t really help in the long run, as it only serves to confuse your body clock. It is much better to make sure you have regular times to go to sleep and wake up. Not only will this help your studies, but getting the right amount of sleep will leave you feeling less crabby, and therefore more able to avoid arguing with your parents, teachers, or friends!
So, how do you fight your own body clock when it is telling you to wake up in the evening and leaving you tired in the day when you are supposed to be awake in school or college?
Getting more daylight in the mornings is said to help, as is dimming your lights later in the evening. Likewise, turning off music, putting aside your phone or laptop and not watching TV just before you go to bed will all help you settle to a good night’s sleep. Physical exercise will also help – but mostly if it is done earlier in the day.
While there are plenty of guidelines on how much sleep you should be getting, nobody has exactly the same sleep needs, so you will need to judge it for yourself. If you find yourself feeling tired when you wake up, you clearly need more sleep!
However, bear in mind that you may need more than you would have expected right now – but surely it is worth going to bed a bit earlier to make sure you do your best at college?