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Sleep Experts Say That Work And School Shouldn’t Start Until After 10am

Sleep Experts Say That Work And School Shouldn’t Start Until After 10am

Students, in an age of global competitiveness, can improve themselves by sleeping in late.

That appears to be the conclusions of certain sleep experts who have declared that our entire work and school schedule is out of sync with our internal body clocks. Paul Kelley, who works for the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, has advocated to the Guardian that schools should not start until 11 am.

So why is Kelley advocating such a late start time? And how could our bodies and society benefit from a world where we sleep more and later?

Society is sleep-deprived

The first thing that needs to be understood is that our sleep problems are not so much when the hours are as the fact that we are not sleeping enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours.”

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But instead, nearly 30 percent of adults report an average of less than 6 hours of sleep per day, and only 31 percent of high school students reported getting 8 hours of sleep on an average school night.

Furthermore, much of that sleep we do get is not particularly restful. About 50-70 million Americans have sleep related disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and snoring which affects theirs and others’ abilities to properly fall asleep. And none of this touches onto the fact that our stressful lives also have an effect on our ability to properly sleep.

The consequences of sleep deprivation

A 1995 study on sleep deprivation concluded that “the average reported sleep length of 7.2-7.4 hours is deficient, and common sleep lengths of less than 6.5 hours can be disastrous.” While that may seemingly go too far, the negative effects of sleep deprivation are myriad and especially so on our youth.

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Sleep deprivation has consequences beyond yawning a lot or falling asleep during class or work. The CDC estimates that there are 1,550 deaths and 40,000 nonfatal injuries related to vehicular accidents caused every year by drowsy driving.

And for growing teenagers, sleep deprivation has all sorts of physical and mental consequences. The Sleep Foundation has noted that teenage sleep deprivation can lead to an inability to concentrate, poor behavior, excessive food consumption, and even pimples. There are even studies which indicate a tenuous link between sleep deprivation and schizophrenia. Many mental diseases like schizophrenia first appear during one’s teenage years.

Sleep is critical for youth development on a physical, emotional, and mental level. But as noted above, teenagers and adults as a whole are not getting the sleep they need to concentrate on their duties when awake.

The benefits of sleeping late

So the effects of sleep deprivation are clear. But why does this necessarily mean that we should get up later? Could it not be possible to just go to bed earlier?

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The problem is that as The Atlantic observes, “Teens stay up later not because they don’t want to go to sleep, but because they can’t.” Teenager have fundamentally different sleep cycles compared to children and adults and may spend all evening on their tablets and all morning sleeping in. Their brains do not release melatonin, a chemical which regulates our sleep cycle, until 11 pm and stop producing it around 8 am. This is about three hours later than adults.

What this means is that when a teenager wakes up at 6 am to go to school, his brain is still producing melatonin which wants him to go to sleep. The result is a sleepy, disgruntled teenager whose mental acuities are not all there.

If the ideal sleep hours of a teenager is from 11 pm to 8 am, than it would be for the best for classes to be made later so that teenagers can get sleep and perform their best in schools. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that middle and high schools should delay the start of their classes to 8:30 am or later. This can help ensure the students will get the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep which they should have in order to develop their brains.

Final Thoughts

There is a gap between starting school at 8:30 and starting it at 11, and perhaps Kelley’s desire may be a bit extreme. But the science shows that society could benefit from starting later and ensuring that everyone, especially our youth, gets enough sleep.

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It should be remembered that our educational system times were set in an age where children would have to work on the farm or elsewhere, which would encourage schools to let the kids out early so they could do their chores while it was still daylight. We have managed to move on from such an age. It is time that we adjust our clocks as well.

Featured photo credit: Megan Schüirmann via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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