17 Oct 2017
To find out, we’ve first got to examine our body chemistry. Our bodies release certain chemicals at different times, which serve as signals for us to perform particular activities.
The chemical culprit that makes us feel drowsy is melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland.
In the day, our eyes detect light and our brains send a message to the pineal gland, telling it not to produce melatonin. At night, the opposite happens. Thus, our brain determines when and how much melatonin to produce depending on the intensity of the light exposure.
Adolescence is the stage during which melatonin production goes a bit awry. Research has shown that melatonin production in teenagers occurs three hours later than usual. This anomaly is what keeps them up late, which also explains why they’re so sleepy in the morning.
They might be awake but their bodies are still producing melatonin – making them sleepy zombies in the morning!
To make matters worse, school-going children require 9 hours of sleep, but get only 7 hours because they sleep late and wake up early. This affects their ability to pay attention and learn.
Schools have reported that later starting times, which allow students to get more sleep, has resulted in improved attendance and grades. Apparently, it also boosts overall day-time alertness and lowers depression rates.
Perhaps the sleepyheads amongst you will sleep better now knowing you have a chemical to blame!