Could staying in bed a little longer actually improve your grades? With winter well and truly upon us and the days getting shorter it seems even more difficult to get going in the mornings. Getting out of a warm bed and getting yourself up and dressed when it is still dark and cold outside is something that very few people enjoy and, given the chance, there are plenty who would rather spend a few more minutes (or hours) in bed. This is particularly true for young people and it is all down to your circadian rhythms. These rhythms change across the course of your life, but basically-speaking control things like how much sleep you need. However, could this also have an impact on how well you do in your studies? It seems so…
Paul Kelley of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford clearly knows a thing or two about sleep patterns, and he believes that young people are losing an average of 10 hours’ of sleep per week.
Sleep deprivation is not a good thing – which is why it has been used as a form of torture to interrogate people in the past – and it seems that this deprivation is having a negative effect on grades, which is why Professor Kelley feels young people should be allowed to start school or college later.
But how late?
Professor Kelley has said that children aged 8-10 should start at about 8:30am or later, 16-year-olds should be starting at 10am, and 18-year-old ought to lie in later, not starting until 11am.
Research has shown that these later start times are in synch with our circadian rhythms at different ages, as Kelley explained, “At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our nine-to-five lifestyle. When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around three hours later, which is entirely natural.”
While we continue to ignore our circadian rhythms we are more prone to exhaustion, frustration, anxiety, weight gain and hyper-tension! In fact, Kelley said that it could also make a person more likely to engage in stimulant or alcohol use and risk-taking.
The professor went on, “This is a huge issue for society. We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14-24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.”
So, it seems, by getting enough sleep, we will all be able to concentrate better. Indeed, research suggests GCSE grades could improve by 10%, but it is not just a question of grades – but also of health.
Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your health, and with the UK ranking as the sixth-highest nation for sleep-deprived children in the world, it is clear that this is something worth taking seriously. If a child gets less than six hours sleep a night, this can lead to over 700 changes in their genetic behaviour over the course of a week. Sleep deprivation in young people could also play a part in the beginnings of conditions like schizophrenia.
Sleep is important for your mental, physical, and emotional development, and since schools have the power to alter start times, is this something that they should be looking into? Professor Kelley believes so, as he stated, “The interesting thing is that parents usually support this. All the studies show that later start times improve family life, travel times are shorter, it’s safer for children to travel to school.”
However, in the meantime, it seems it is up to young people to make sure they get enough rest. One tip is to turn your mobile off an hour or so before you go to bed. A recent study showed that 96% of participants used a mobile device in the final 30 minutes before going to sleep. As you may know, the light emitted by these devices can trick our bodies into thinking it is daytime, and prevent us from winding down for a proper night’s rest!
You might also like: