What if we could create schedules that allowed teens to fall asleep and wake at their natural bedtimes? How would that change their lives?
Scientists say he needs at least 8 hours of sleep a night so that his brain can function, immune system, nervous system and cognitive processes can operate well. He would have to go to bed at 9 pm–the time he went to bed when he was in fifth grade. He doesn’t go to bed at 9. “I’m not tired,” he says. He’s right. The teen brain doesn’t start making melatonin, the sleep hormone, until 11 pm.
That’s not the problem.
The problem is that a student who goes to sleep at midnight, 12:30 or later doing homework must get up between 5 and 6 to get ready to start the new day. That’s less than 6 hours of sleep. My son’s classmates say they get between 4 and 6 hours a night. Students are so tired that many sleep in class. So tired that they have begun their coffee fix in early middle school. Caffeine-addicted by 14 years old. So tired that they drink energy drinks that make their hearts skip a beat. So tired that they are drawn to substances that promise relief.
When the brain is developing during adolescence, its two main goals are pruning–the process of get rid of all the associations and circuits the brain doesn’t use much, in preparation for adulthood–and myelinating, which is the process of strengthening the most used circuits in the brain for maximum speed and efficiency.
Read more at Sleep deprivation is serious threat to teens