July 26, 2010
Late Sunset Delays Teen Sleep

Delayed nocturnal melatonin makes kids stay up too late and then become sleepy the next day.

Troy, NY In the spring, later sunset and extended daylight exposure delay bedtimes in teenagers, according to researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC).

"Biologically, this increased exposure to early evening light in the spring delays the onset of nocturnal melatonin, a hormone that indicates to the body when it's nighttime," explains Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., associate professor. "This extended exposure adds to the difficulties teens have falling asleep at a reasonable hour."

The sleep-deprived brats become moody. How about totally covering the windows in their bedrooms to block out all light in the evening?

Over time when coupled with having to rise early for school, this delay in sleep onset may lead to teen sleep deprivation and mood changes, and increase risk of obesity and perhaps under-performance in school, according to Figueiro.

Kids are made to go to school too early. This is dumb. Too early rising even boosts teen car accidents.

Getting up late means less morning sun which just makes the problem worse.

"This is a double-barreled problem for teenagers and their parents," says Figueiro. "In addition to the exposure to more evening daylight, many teens also contend with not getting enough morning light to stimulate the body's biological system, also delaying teens' bedtimes."

Blue light at the right time in the morning (while in school) could shift teen clocks so they'd go to sleep earlier. Blocking blue light exposure delays onset of sleep. Got problems falling asleep? Adjust your light exposure. Be aware that evening exposure to computer screens might cause delay in sleep too.

We do not live in our natural environment. We need to engineer the environments that we do live in to match the designs of our bodies. We should engineer the intensity and frequency distribution of light across our days to control our biological clocks so that we get enough sleep and get up when we need to.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 July 26 11:00 PM  Brain Sleep

naman said at July 28, 2010 11:56 AM:

Would getting rid of Daylight Savings Time help too? I've always believed DST was unnecessary and I hate sunset occurring after 8 pm.

Seerak said at July 28, 2010 1:16 PM:

naman: there's more to it than DST, there's also the gap between local time and standard time that can cause an issue. The local messing around with time zones means that standard noon might be a much as an hour or more earlier than local noon. DST adds an hour to that and makes it worse.

Here in Las Vegas it's the other way around -- we're half an hour or so behind local time in the winter (which means that we actually have more light in the mornings than in the evenings). DST only moves us to half an hour ahead -- and we still get bright morning light by 5AM in July.

IMO we ought to be in Mountain Time. But then, I have delayed sleep-phase syndrome (my "light synchronizer" doesn't work, resulting in a perpetually free-running body clock that I must sync "manually" with melatonin) so I'm biased in favor of evening sunlight.... and I don't have quite the clout of the casinos, which likely prefer earlier darkness because the Strip looks better at night.

Unanimous said at July 28, 2010 3:09 PM:

I'm always dimming lights as evening approaches. Just enough is best. Blaring ceiling lights are the worst!

MEC2 said at July 28, 2010 4:29 PM:

Reason number 598276 that daylight savings SUCKS.

The most successful government invention - time travel. Go an hour forward in time, go an hour back in time...

Jack Okie said at July 28, 2010 5:52 PM:

A couple of months ago I ran across a PC app called F.Lux, which gradually adapts the color balance of your monitor to the time of day. I was skeptical, but it really seems to let me get sleepy earlier than before.



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