If you are among the people who favor waking later in the day, with your morning starting a few hours later, you are not alone. According to Paul Kelley, a researcher at Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, the hours people force themselves to adapt to for work are unsuitable and unnatural for their internal body clocks, and this puts them in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis.
Adults are not the only ones who should have later start times, either. Kelley mentions the theory also applies to children and teenagers. In an initial study, there was an experimental trial with a later start time for students. Results of this initial study showed by starting school at 10 a.m., students performed much better and had higher test scores compared to students starting at 8 a.m. Now Kelley and his group of researchers hope to recruit up to 100 schools in the United Kingdom to participate in a broader research trial, advocating later start times for students.
Kelley recommends school start times for 8:30 a.m. for children up to age 10, 10:00 a.m. for students between 11 and 17, and 11:00 a.m. for students 18 to 24. The reason for these recommendations has to do with the body’s natural circadian rhythms and how a lack of sleep affects the body. Sleep deprivation results in mood changes, weight gain, frustration, exhaustion, anxiety, and makes people more prone to take risks and become addicted to depressants and stimulants.
Further, the group between the ages of 14 and 24 is one of the most sleep deprived. Most teenagers’ and young adults’ bodies do not start producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating the internal body clock, until around 11 p.m. in the evening. As a result, the hormone does not even start circulating through the body until early the following morning, making it much more difficult to wake up early.
Before we turn 10 years old and, again, after we reach age 55, our bodies are able to adapt to an early morning schedule. It is the years in between these ages where the body’s clock changes, and adjustments to our daily routines should be modified by up to three hours, with later starting times than we currently have. According to Kelley, having a later starting time would be entirely natural.
Getting sufficient sleep is vital for everyone of all ages. A lack of sleep results in poorer performances and leads to health problems. Where the research into this area is headed, no-one is entirely certain, except that later start times would be widely acceptable to most adults, teens, and children. It will be interesting to see how Kelley and his researchers fare once they complete their 100 school study in the United Kingdom, and whether it will have an effect on start times here in the United States.
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