Later school classes to curb sleep-deprived, moody teens

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Schools should start classes later in the day to curb moody teens according to a recent Australian study.

Psychologist Suzanne Warner led a study of moody senior secondary students and their sleep patterns and found that most teens were much more productive and approachable later in the day – giving rise to the notion that teenagers are in fact ‘night owls’.

“Teenagers and their parents often believe that they do not require as much sleep as when they were children. However, we found that this simply isn’t the case.

“Our research indicates teenagers are much happier during school holidays because they have much more sleep. The average student gets two hours less sleep a night during school terms and this has severe implications for their psychological health and the psychological well-being of those who are close to them,” says Warner.

The research identified two types of adolescent sleep patterns – ‘morning types’ who woke early and slept early and ‘night types’ who stayed up late and woke up late.

“The teenagers, particularly ‘night types’, were generally more depressed, functioned less during daily activities, became irritable and often had difficulty getting up for school, due to sleep deprivation.

“One solution to this sleep deprivation and the associated moody behaviour, is to increase schools’ and teachers’ awareness of teenagers’ sleep requirements, particularly for students in the final year of secondary school. It is time for educator consider limiting the number of early morning classes and sports practices,” concludes Warner.

The study recommends those adolescents who find it difficult to cope with school, complain of feeling tired and have difficulty concentrating should be assessed for sleep deprivation. “Night types” may require additional help to slowly modify their body clock onto an earlier phase.

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Suzanne Warner is available for interview and presents her research at the 40th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference in Melbourne 28 September – 2 October.

For further information or to arrange an interview:
Ccontact Elaine Grant on 0412 683 068 or Karalee Evans on 0409 239 948.

The 40th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, this month from 28 September- 2 October at Crown Promenade, Melbourne, Australia.

Themed Past Reflections, Future Directions, the five-day program includes international scholars and psychologists, interactive workshops, themed days and streams provided by APS Colleges and Divisions.