Sweet Dreams Are Made of These (A study on sleep) – Oliver Hurley

Rise and shine sleepy heads, welcome back to reality, it’s the morning and a new school day is just around the corner. Ignore the pain and exhaustion of waking up at a time which would make the early bird quake in fear, ignore the ten pound bags under the eyes, the aching limbs, the inability to think straight, its school after all, one must power on. Cover it up with the gel and the makeup, put on that students smile, crawl your way through another day of lesson after lesson after lesson as your brain burns and sparks at the mass of new info and responsibilities. And so you’ll hear your teachers say once it all gets too much “what time did you go to bed last night” 9? I wish, 10? Praise be, 11? 12? 1? 2? That’s more like it. Of course its your fault they’ll say, staying up on screens, doing that last minute prep, struggling to fall asleep as you reminisce on the mistakes of the past. And maybe it is? But can we help it?
Maybe its not just a collective irresponsibility, a modern addiction to screens. Why is the modern youth going to bed so late? Surely they know they must wake early the next day? Well, today I am here to answer the forbidden question, why are teenagers so grumpy?

To start off let us address wake up times. For most teenagers, and for us here at Rhs, school starts at around 8 in the morning, thankfully for us the gracious gods who run the school have graced us with an extra twenty minutes in the morning. However recently, as you may have noticed in these brisk winter times, a lot of us are awakening to a pitch black sky and the deafening sound of ones alarm. Let us now think back to a primal time, before clocks, a land before time one could say. How did humans know when to go to sleep? Well its obvious, we used the sun and stars, if its dark its sleepy time, if its light its wakey time. And so this pattern changed with the seasons, winter meant longer nights, summer shorter ones. But in our modern desire for knowledge this natural processes has been corrupted. With the dawn of clocks and watches comes a set perception of time. No matter the sky we must arise early and sleep late. This continual transgression of our biological clocks and their reliance on changes in light can be found to heavily affect our levels of tiredness as our inner mechanisms are thrown out of sync.

Now you may ask, but most working people have to awake at these early not just teenagers, and not every working person is grumpy. And to this I agree, this is but merely a factor in a wider picture. You see it has been found that teenagers, adults and children have vastly different biological makeups, specifically our internal clocks run almost in opposites. It has been found in research done on adolescences and children, that while younger children’s body clocks tend to express a need to sleep early and thus wake up earlier, those in adolescence were found to instead express a desire to sleep much later and wake up even later. It was found that many teenagers showed periods of high alertness late at night, at times when younger children showed extreme tiredness. One may argue that this may be due to the effect of technology and screens on teenagers eyes, but this is not true, many of these studies were done within lab settings, meaning variables such as screen time and exterior noise were removed from the equation.

It is simply the case that teenagers are not being allowed the amount of natural sleep they should, a process that is further effected, it can be said, by the extra pressures put on us by school life, social life and, yes, our screens. So, what can we do about this, what can we do to fix our internal brokenness? In a perfect world all schools would allow us teens to have the true sleep we need. But alas the problems that could arise from such a scheme, not to mention the amount of rescheduling and replaning it would take, would take years to sort out. Truly this problem is one intrinsically linked to society as a whole rather than individual schools. And so we come full circle and I must sadly admit defeat to the pleas of teachers and parent. The only real way to circumvent or lessen this tiredness of the teenage soul, and the thousands of choices thrown upon it, as the Headmaster so drew attention to in assembly, is to calm down on the screens, try to get an early night, and generally give yourself more you time (not spent on screens that is).

And so I must regrettably end by restating the advice give by all those who came before me, just try and get a bit more sleep, please. However the next time anyone asks why you’re so tired or grumpy, perhaps you will remember this article and say with confidence that its just in your nature. Or that its combination of socio-biological problems mixed in with a little personal misfortune, but thats just not as snappy.

By Oliver Hurley


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