While it’s not as drastic as the mysterious sleeping sickness plaguing an entire town in Kazakhstan, experts attest that the re is a sleep-deprivation crisis affecting young adults worldwide.
Sleep expert Paul Kelley, who works for the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, compares sleep to money or currency. Think of sleep as money for the brain, according to him. In today’s sleep-deprived society, the youth are incurring about 10 hours of sleep debt a week.
In an interview with UK-based publication The Guardian, Kelley states that “…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.”
Further, he recommends that with regards to school children, class start times should depend on the age group. For example, Kelley elaborates, 8:30 am for eight to 10-year-olds, 10 am for 16-year-olds, and 11 am start of class for 18-year-olds.
Other studies seem to back up his recommendations. According to US-based National Sleep Foundation, melatonin (the hormone that regulates our body clock) in adolescents starts to secrete into the blood stream at around 11 pm and continues to pump until the wee hours of the morning. This explains while most teens are wide awake at night and find it very difficult to get up in the morning.
Lack of sleep can affect test scores, moods, and even relationships. With school starting so early on in the day, sleep deprivation may be affecting how well students perform in class. When Kelley was head teacher at Monkseaton High School in the UK, he headed a pilot study that instituted a 10 am start time for school. The results of the study showed a dramatic increase in the number of students earning top grades.
Here in the Philippines, a UP Manila-based group called PhilSHIFT is currently undertaking a study that seeks to map the Filipino chronotype and study the Filipino circadian rhythm or body clock. There is also a proposal to move back the start time of classes, but this is more for easing the traffic than it is to improve grades.