Are teenagers acting troublesome when they refuse to follow Ben Franklin’s “early to bed, early to rise” principle? Or is there an inherent biological need to sleep and wake up late?
In a live online lecture titled “The ABC’s of ZZZ’s During Adolescence,” Amy Wolfson, professor of psychology and associate dean for faculty development, argues that the desire among adolescents to stay up late is the result of a biological shift in circadian rhythm that occurs between the ages of 10 and 17.
Most adolescents need roughly nine hours of sleep each night to wake up feeling refreshed and function at optimal levels. But the natural circadian shift coupled with early school start times has made sleep deprivation among middle and high school students a widespread problem.
A nationally-recognized expert on sleep, Wolfson draws on extensive research — including her own — to discuss a variety of influences and constraints on adolescent sleep patterns, the consequences of poorly rested adolescents, and possible countermeasures that might be taken to help middle and high schoolers get the sleep they need.
Wolfson doesn’t take all the blame off the shoulders of youth. She describes a recent survey in which 18 percent of adolescents polled said they woke up during the night several times a week to respond to a text or email message.
Wolfson’s online lecture was recently streamed on the Holy Cross Web site as part of a series by the Office of Alumni Relations and the Alumni Education Program in collaboration with the Office of Public Affairs. These online lectures feature Holy Cross’ exceptional faculty and are designed to keep alumni engaged and thinking critically even after they have left campus.