Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock
By SUE SHELLENBARGER
October 16, 2012
Many parents know the scene: The groggy, sleep-deprived teenager stumbles through breakfast and falls asleep over afternoon homework, only to spring to life, wide-eyed and alert, at 10 p.m.—just as Mom and Dad are nodding off.
Fortunately for parents, science has gotten more sophisticated at explaining why, starting at puberty, a teen's internal sleep-wake clock seems to go off the rails. Researchers are also connecting the dots between the resulting sleep loss and behavior long chalked up to just "being a teenager." This includes more risk-taking, less self-control, a drop in school performance and a rise in the incidence of depression.
Few parents realize that the common practice of letting teens set their own bedtime can fuel further mutations in the biological processes that knocked them off track. Sue Shellenbarger and Brown University's Dr. Mary Carskadon discuss details on Lunch Break.
Tips for Improving Teens' Sleep
One 2010 study from the University of British Columbia, for example, found that sleep loss can hamper neuron growth in the brain during adolescence, a critical period for cognitive development.
Findings linking sleep loss to adolescent turbulence are "really revelatory," says Michael Terman, a professor of clinical psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and co-author of "Chronotherapy," a forthcoming book on resetting the body clock...