The Northern Territory news Sat 16 Apr 2022
The Northern Territory news; NewspaperNT
Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.
News Corp Australia
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News Corp Australia
Saturday April 16 2022 WEEKEND 43 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA sleep to their bodys full desire, many kids will sleep even more at age 16 than they did at age 10. If this sounds surprising, consider how much sense it makes. As we have learned, the brain and body are going through massive changes during adolescence, and much of this transformation in the brain happens during sleep. Remember when you worked so hard to get your baby sleeping on a schedule, or you noticed your toddler became hyper and overtired, so you created an elaborate bedtime routine to help him wind down? We take such good care of our little ones sleep because we know their brains are exploding with growth. Teenagehood is the same. Changes related to puberty and a reorganisation of the brain mean that the period of adolescence, similar to earlier massive developmental explosions, is a time when sleep becomes more important, not less. Meanwhile, recent estimates put the average teen at a loss of about two hours of sleep every school night. Now we understand the remarkable abilities teens have to sleep when given the chance. But despite this huge biological thirst for sleep, teens do tend to naturally stay up later than their younger siblings and often their parents. The average bedtime as kids move through middle and high school goes from 9pm to 11pm or midnight, and some stay up much later than that. This late-night tendency is due to a shift in the teen sleep clock. The master clock synchronises the multiple clocks in other tissues throughout the body. Clocks in the digestive system know that we eat around a certain time, so our tummy begins to grumble, and clocks in our neurological system know when well need energy and when well need to wind down. These clocks affect when we are tired, alert, creative, and hungry, as well as our body temperature, metabolism, and other physiological processes. When the brains clock knows that night is coming, the hormone melatonin is released, signalling the time for sleep is approaching, allowing us to wind down, become drowsy, and let sleep take over. Toward biological morning, the brain sends signals to tell us, Its day! Melatonin levels go down and cortisol and other activating hormones rise. We become alert, productive, and ready to enjoy the day. Little kids circadian rhythms, otherwise known as their internal clocks, tell them to go to bed early and wake up early. Most little kids can fall asleep at 8pm and be awake and ready to play around 6am. As kids enter adolescence, though, they experience a natural shift to a later biological timing. This is not just a preference; it happens at a chemical level. Studies measuring the melatonin levels of adolescents have found that these rise about two hours later than younger kids (pushing natural bedtime and natural wake time two hours later as well). This phenomenon of shifting to a later rhythm is called a sleep phase delay. The sleep phase delay has been linked to the onset of puberty, suggesting that something in the neurological and chemical changes related to puberty triggers the delay in the master clock. The brain Losing sleep Sleep deprivation among teens is a silent epidemic that has serious health implications and its not all about stress and screen time Extract Heather Tu rgeon and Julie W right becomes paced differently, and from a chemical standpoint, the biological night of an adolescent is shifted later. This is key to understanding how to support teenagers sleep: the brain tells them to go to bed later and wake up later than young kids and grown-ups. From a chemical standpoint (and given all that is on their plate), most are unable to fall asleep early enough to regularly get eight to 10 hours of nightly sleep. High schools that start at 7.45am or even 8am go hand-in-hand with sleep deprivation. This sleep phase delay means that an eight year old might be drowsy and ready to sleep by 8pm, but an adolescent is physically unable to fall asleep for the night until about 10pm or later. This delayed timing also means that teens are not physiologically ready to wake up until later than the eight year old. As all parents know, little kids are prone to early rising, ready to build Lego and do cartwheels at 6am or earlier. In fact, the younger the child, the earlier they tend to start the day. But as kids reach adolescence, what was once gymnastics hour is now still the biological night. In fact the early morning hours for adolescents contain intense and valuable stages of sleep, including dreams making this important sleep time. This explains why a fire engine could drive through the bedroom and a teen could keep sleeping peacefully: 6am is still the night, according to a teenagers sleep clock. Our preference for morning or evening is called our chronotype, or you might hear people describe it as being an early bird or night owl. Most adolescents shift into night owls, in a clear way. Parents of these teens and the teens themselves tell us its very hard to imagine falling asleep before 11pm and its very hard to wake up in the morning. A smaller subset seems to keep a morning tendency such as our friends 16 year old who can fall asleep at 10pm and wake early and easily for school. These teens tend to grow into adults who likewise prefer early schedules. For most teens, the evening preference begins around age 12 and reaches its peak for girls at age 19.5, and for boys at age 21. In our 20s, we tip back toward a morning preference again. This is a phenomenon that has been observed across cultures around the world. In fact, researchers have also measured a sleep phase delay in other mammals that coincides with sexual maturation, which backs up the biological nature of the teen sleep delay. Rhesus monkeys, marmosets and mice, for example, experience a delay in their internal clock around the time of puberty. So then, gaming and video chatting with friends past midnight is just natural? Should we let teens do this if its what their brain clock dictates? Not so fast. The sleep phase delay naturally shifts teenagers sleep somewhat later, but light, technology, school and social forces prey on this natural delay, adding an additional delay and pushing sleep times to an unnatural and often unhealthy point. The environment takes advantage of and accentuates the sleep phase delay and keeps teenagers awake way beyond a natural bedtime. To allow our paleo-sleep to emerge, we have to put down the VR headset and step away from the phone. Generally speaking, light exposure in the evening will convince the brain its still day and will delay drowsiness. Light suppresses the release of sleep-inducing chemicals like melatonin. Remember, over hundreds of thousands of years, our eyes and brains evolved to respond to sunlight as an indicator that its daytime and we should be alert, but now computer screens, phones, and even interior home lights can send the same signals. All these sources of light, along with the mental stimulation of social media, games, video chats with friends, and so forth can increase arousal and suppress sleep chemistry. To make matters worse, research has pointed to adolescents being more sensitive to evening light and therefore prone to an accentuated delay in falling asleep. To a large degree, this explains why teen sleep has declined alarmingly in recent years, as we have ever more sources of light and diversion from our homes and devices. On the other hand, sunlight in the morning causes an advance and sets the circadian rhythms earlier, putting us on an earlier schedule and making us sleepy earlier in the evening. These delaying and advancing effects are a really important takeaway for adolescents and parents. Teenagers need less light in the evening and more light (sunlight is the absolute best) in the morning, to keep their brain clocks in sync. Otherwise the sleep phase delay becomes a runaway train. Morning sunlight keeps the train on the tracks, constantly nudging and sending alerting go signals to internal clocks to keep them more in sync with the schedules imposed by school, and to somewhat counteract the tendency to become delayed. Its amazing that morning sunlight starts a timer in the brain that sets the stage for the sleep that will come 15 or so hours later; but its true, morning sun makes it easier to fall asleep at bedtime. The cells in our eyes that set the circadian rhythms respond best to the sun, so turning on the lights in your house does not have as strong an effect. When your teen wakes, she should spend a short amount of time outside. In sunny climates, five to 10 minutes of outdoor sun in the morning may suffice. In other areas, more time may be needed to have the same effect, although the sun through clouds is still stronger than interior home lights. A good rule of thumb for teens is to go outside for breakfast, walk to school if possible, spend first period outside (hint to schools), and sit outside or go for a walk or a run before 10am on the weekends. After morning has passed, the circadian rhythms have moved on and light will no longer advance the clock. If a teens normal wake-up time is 7am, then the internal clock will respond to morning sun for a couple of hours after this, but going outside at noon is unlikely to help. In the evening, lowering the lights in the home, turning off computers, and putting away phones is key to allowing a natural rise in melatonin, which invites the body to fall asleep easily. This is an edited extract from Generation Sleepless: why tweens and teens arent sleeping enough, and how we can help them by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, Scribe by $33 > If theyre allowed to sleep to their bodys full desire, many kids will sleep even more at age 16 than they did at age 10
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