“Why are you so tired all the time?” “Stop being lazy and do your homework.” “GET UP!” These are just a few things that we hear everyday, the curse of being a teenager. But is it all really our fault like they assume?
Actually, our unenthusiastic vibes are backed up by science so next time someone yells at you about it, show them this article.
Teenagers body clocks are constantly interrupted, being made to sleep earlier and wake up earlier which has a major effect on our sleep cycle. As well as this we also tend to sleep in on weekends, further confusing our body clocks and overall making sleep harder. According to Nationwide Children’s, as teenagers, we should be getting nine hours of sleep per night. This is difficult as teenagers only start to produce melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleep) at 1am and only stop producing it at 10am, which is an hour after school has begun. Add in the fact that it can take hours to even get to school in the first place and students are only getting 6 or 7 hours, far less than what they need. If this is happening regularly, sleep deprived teenagers become overtired.
A teenager that has not gotten enough sleep is more likely to feel like they’re not up to the school task at hand. This is happening because our bodies are hardwired to go to sleep later and wake up later compared to younger children and adults. When compared with adults, teenagers also will find it much harder to remember things as the hippocampus (our brains memory storage) needs sleep in order to properly work, making studying far harder than it needs to be. But memory isn’t the only thing affected by a lack of sleep. When overtired, the amygdala (our emotional control centre) reacts to things 60% more than a well rested brain, meaning that you react to smaller things on a larger scale, and are irritated by normally insignificant things. This adds to the stigma of emotional, moody teenagers that we all know and love.
Around the world students complain about the amount of homework they receive. On average Australian students do 6 hours of homework a week whereas students from Shanghai do an average of 13.8 hours of homework a week. The country with the lowest average hours of homework per week is Finland with 2.8 hours a week. Finland is also said to have one of the best education systems in the world. In Finland, the school hours are shorter, meaning that Finnish students have more time to rest. Maybe if Australia shortened our school hours and let us sleep a little longer we would be able to concentrate and perform better.
Alongside sleep, extracurricular activities can also have positive effects for students and are linked with high grades. Many students in high school attend two or more extracurricular activities a week. While this can be good for our GPA, this adds extra pressure on students to stay up late in order to complete their homework. A common extracurricular activity is a part time job.
Between the two of us writing this piece, we have 4 and a half jobs (I have 3.5 of them btw – Katrina) and we often find that teachers tell us to put our homework before work, even if it puts us at risk of losing our jobs.
We always seem to be complaining about how tired we are, despite having a weekends rest on our backs because it’s so broken up by work, sport and homework. To make it worse we are under the constant scrutiny of our parents, teachers and peers which adds another layer of pressure to our lives.
The attitude towards sleep and teenager laziness needs to change. It’s affecting our schoolwork, our mental health and our relationships. It’s about time that we change the school hours and for teachers to try to understand what we’re going through and that it’s not us, it’s our brains.