Teenagers learn why they struggle to get out of bed in the morning
Wednesday 18 April 2012
Experts in sleep patterns at the University of Surrey have worked with teenagers on a project to examine how sleep deprived they are and whether the clock change in the UK has an impact on their alertness.
Researchers tested the sixth form students using a variety of tests of attention and reaction times, and kept a check on their sleep patterns using a recording device which looks like a wrist watch, but provides 24 hour activity data used to infer sleep patterns.
The 16 year olds in the test, both girls and boys, wore ‘Actiwatches’ which measure movement and sleep.
They noted that even before the clocks change which was in the middle of the time analysis period, teenagers were already sleep deprived – getting on average less than 7 hours sleep per night.
The study was funded by the Royal Society which promotes science to schools and the wider public.
Researcher Joanne Bower explains that “Other research has shown that during adolescence teenagers experience a shift in their circadian rhythm which causes sleep promoting hormones to be produced later into the night. This means that teenagers are awake later in the evening, and find it difficult to rise early in the morning.
The need to get up for school and other activities creates a short window of opportunity for sleep, and can lead to persistent sleep deprivation. Add this to the clock change, in which we lose an hour of sleep, and teenagers may suffer more than most.”
Teenagers at the Claremont Fan Court School in Esher, Surrey, took part in the research.
“As teachers we are fully aware of the sleep challenges that some students can face and appreciate the significance of our students conducting this study at Claremont Fan Court School.
“It has enhanced the students’ independent learning skills and is part of the ongoing process of preparing them for university,” said Paul Sogaard, Deputy Head of Sixth Form at Claremont Fan Court School.
Derk-Jan Dijk, Professor of Sleep and Physiology at the University of Surrey, added: “Sleep research is a good example of how academic research can have a real impact on the lives of young people in our society.”
Sleeping patterns were measured for a week up to the change as well as reaction times using a special machine similar to ones used to test pilots’ alertness after shift patterns.
The tests were taken again in the week after the clock change to measure the differences.
Prolonged sleep deprivation in this way, may lead to deficits in daytime functioning including concentration, memory, and mood.
Test periods 19th March to 29th March.
Howard Wheeler, Press Office at the University of Surrey, Tel: +44 (0)1483 686141, or Email firstname.lastname@example.org