Adolescent Sleep Schedule

This kind of ignorant bleating makes me froth at the mouth every time – I guess it is because this is my own blogging “turf”.
One of the recurring themes of my blog is the disdain I have for people who equate sleep with laziness out of their Puritan core of understanding of the world, their “work ethic” which is a smokescreen for power-play, their vicious disrespect for everyone who is not like them, and the nasty feeling of superiority they have towards the teenagers just because they are older, bigger, stronger and more powerful than the kids. Not to forget the idiotic notions that kids need to be “hardened”, or that, just because they managed to survive some hardships when they were teens, all the future generations have to be sentenced to the same types of hardships, just to make it even. This is bullying behavior, and disregarding and/or twisting science in the search for personal triumphalism irks me to no end.

I hated getting up early, too. I still hate it, and I’m so far beyond growth hormones that I don’t even remember how they felt. But I do remember that in middle and high school, I dragged myself out of the house at 5 a.m. every day of the week to deliver papers before I caught the 6:45 a.m. bus to school. I never fell asleep in class. Neither did anybody else. And something caused me to grow 6 inches and add 35 pounds between sophomore and junior year. At the end of that kind of day, complete with cross-country, basketball or track, I had no trouble falling asleep at 10 p.m.

He said that he grew up in height and weight when he was in high school. Who knows how much more he would have grown if he was not so sleep deprived (if his self-congatulatory stories are to be believed and he did not slack off every chance he had). Perhaps he would not grow up to be so grouchy and mean-spirited if he had a more normal adolescence.
I don’t know where he got the idea that growth hormone is a cause of the phase-delay of circadian rhythms in adolescence. It could be, but it is unlikely – we just don’t know yet. But, if a hormone is a cause, than it is much more likely to be sex steroids. Perhaps his sleep-deprived and testosterone-deprived youth turned him into a sissy with male anxiety he channels into lashing at those weaker than him?

In previous centuries, adolescents in an agrarian society got up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. with their parents to milk the cows or do any other of a long list of chores. Did growth hormones pass them by? Where were the “studies” that showed they really needed to go to bed after midnight and sleep until 10? And why weren’t their parents all being reported to the DSS? Oh, that’s right, there was no DSS. How did that generation survive?

He assumes that in times before electricity, teenagers used to wake up and fall asleep at the same time adults did. Well, they did not. Studies of sleep patterns in primitive tribes show that adolescents are the last ones to wake up (and nobody bashes them for it – it is the New Primitives with access to media that do that) and the last ones to fall asleep – they serve as first-shift sentries during the night watch.

Even in this, the 21st century, kids who enter the military at 17 find that they can fall asleep easily at 9:30 or 10, because they know they’re going to be getting up at 4:30 or 5. Apparently the Army hasn’t read the study on circadian rhythms.

Actually, the military being the most worried by this problem is funding a lot of research on circadian rhythms and sleep and has been for decades. Because they know, first hand, how big a problem it is and that yelling sargeants do not make alert soldiers.

Kids, if you need more sleep, my study shows there’s a simple way to get it. Turn off – I mean “power down” – the cell phone, the iPod and the computer sometime before 11 p.m. Turn off the TV. Turn off the light. Lie down in bed and close your eyes.

…and sit in the dark for the next four hours, heh?
This being the beginning of the school year, I can expect to see more of such nonsense printed in the MSM and on blogs soon, so I may repost (tomorrow) some of the stuff I have already written against the societal equation of sleep with laziness in general, as well as specifically concerning adolescents (see this, this, this, this and this, for instance).
What especially drives me crazy is that so many teachers, people who work with adolescents every day, succumb to this indulgence in personal power over the children. It is easier to get into a self-righteous ‘high’ than to study the science and do something about the problem. It is easier to blame the kids than to admit personal impotence and try to do something about it by studying the issue.
I am also currently reading a very good National Academies Press book on the topic of sleep in teenagers which I intend to review soon, as well as use as a source for future rants on the topic.
Addendum: Alon Levy extends this discussion to the general issue of ageism as a conservative way to supress change by supressing the habringers of change – the next generation. Excellent read.
I’d like to go in a slightly different direction – the issue of Moral Order (scroll down to the “Adults Over Children” subheading). Of course, adults have moral authority over children. But what it means, i.e., how is this phrase understood and put to practice, differs between authoritarian/conservative and authoritative/liberal worldviews.
A conservative thinks about his child: “I am good and you are bad. I will beat the sh**t out of you for every little transgression and I hope that will teach you well. Learn to love the rod, because the discipline I am giving out today will turn into your self-discipline later. Once you are 18, get the hell out of my house – by that time you should be as moral as I am now.”
That is the recipe for the development of the External Locus of Moral Authority.
A liberal thinks about his child: “I am older, thus more educated, experienced and mature than you are. You are a good child and have a potential to become a deeply moral person. I am here to help you and guide you in solving day-to-day moral dilemmas so, by the time you are an adult, you will naturally strive to do good and behave ethically.”
That is the recipe for the development of the Internal Locus of Moral Authority.

9 responses to “Adolescent Sleep Schedule

  1. Yes. Yes, that kind of talk is bullying behavior! I’ve been saying that for years. It’s also the kind of thinged mentioned on a page called How NOT to Talk: Converational Terrorism:

    “I used to think that way when I was your age.”
    “As you mature emotionally (or mentally, or spiritually), you will grow out of your present way of thinking, and you will eventually come around to my point of view”
    “You’re new here, aren’t you?”

    Such egotistical bullshit. Age does not equal wisdom; and often enough, neither does experience.

  2. Thanks for that link – a nice set of examples.

  3. among the many comments Coturnix makes which which resonates with me is his depiction of the so-called Protestant “work ethic” as a “smokescreen for a power-play”. i have always viciously detested the use of that term “work ethic” as an attribute of an individual rather than hype for “hard working” assignable only to a culture. in the workplace it also has connotations of just doing what you’re told and “therefore” being a model employee.
    (crossposted from ekzept)

  4. Not to forget the idiotic notions that kids need to be “hardened”, or…

    I also agree with this. I remember when I was pretty young I saw a Chuck Norris movie (Sort-of) called Sidekicks. And the old Asian guy who teaches the young white kid how to do kung-fu (pretty stereotypical, huh?) said something that actually resonates with why the above idiotic notion is that of a bully. Despite being such a damn cheesy movie, this one quote is actually potent.

    “The dream world is where the child lives. Without it, growing older would not mean growing wiser.”

    It’s disappointing that many people who equate sleep with laziness (or even just similar mindsets) as you put it, also equate the destruction of imagination with maturity.

  5. It’s conservative idiocy, in its purest form: change is bad, the old days were perfect, and older people always know better than younger people. Even if, say, the old days were a time period in which when there were food shortages, parents let their children starve and then just had more children when food became abundant again.

  6. Thanks for this. My kids stay up late and sleep in when they can, like normal young people (17 and 20). I’ve found myself sleeping longer than most people do, going to bed later, and these days, being awake a good part of the night and sleeping best in the early morning hours. Our society doesn’t appreciate this, of course.
    We all have different schedules for a reason, and those that can appreciate this and adjust to their bodiy’s schedule are going to be happier, better-adjusted people for it.

  7. Huh. This made the Skeptics’ Circle and still no more comments.

  8. I can’t figure out if you have an issue with ageism or with observational advice, or maybe both? The oped page is usually open to dissenters and counterpoint views.
    I think it would be instructive to re-write the oped from your point of view so that it is scientifically valid thus we can compare the two. Unless you consider this blog a rewriting of the oped?

    Actually, the military being the most worried by this problem is funding a lot of research on circadian rhythms and sleep and has been for decades. Because they know, first hand, how big a problem it is and that yelling sargeants do not make alert soldiers.

    This is oversimplification to the extent that the original oped writer was oversimplifying except that the oped was in the mode of innocuous, sagely advice.
    The military funds these studies because it is common that soldiers are expected to stay up for 24 to 36 hr periods as routine courses of mission and because aspects of military missions are multifaceted (i.e. there is specialization but also a broad common task set). In periods of mission or training it is not uncommon to have soldiers sleep 1 to 2 hrs per night before resuming another 20 to 22 hr work-cycle.
    The military is not interested in yelling sergeants as much as negating the diminishing safety of operations and loss of judgment by personnel that are fatigued.

  9. “sagely advice” ??? And what exactly makes the man a sage? Not very skeptical, inquisitive, or academic of you to be so taken in by the loaded assumption that since the man has experience, he must have wisdom. Fuck the “mode”- if it’s sagely, then he’s just an asshole using a sagely tone. We judge the article and the arguments by their content, not emotional drivel.
    He constantly refers to the school year as a time riddled with vacations that supposedly nobody else gets and something that does not count at work –> He forgets that, like it was for him, for most teens school still royally sucks and cannot count as leisure, no matter what the comparison to full-time working adults. These remarks are not only misguided, they are in fact lies, bald lies, lies by omission, and lies by otrusion. Coslusion? This content is off the asshole-bully variety.

    Besides the fact that you can find studies to show just about anything (caffeine is good, caffeine is bad), I don’t think I’ve ever seen a society more interested in enabling rank laziness in the next generation.

    This man obviously has no training or understanding of statistics. First he does not know (or is lying) that statistics do not proveanything. Ever. Second, just because he sees people falling for bullshit on “both sides” of every “issue” does not mean that statistics can favor any view. If he’s such a sage, cccc, he should know already that things are either true or not true, and that science cannot prove things false and true at the same time. Conslusion? He’s an igorant, negligent asshole. Probably a bad parent and husband, himself.

    Sure. But my motives are pure.

    OOh, can I have logical fallacies for 600, Alex? Fuck intentions. He’s making factual claims about objective reality. He is either right or wrong. His intentions do not matter in this respect. Conslusion? He’s a subversive bully.
    Know why we call this guy a bully, cccc? Because he is. Mmkay? His article cannot be oversimplified because it’s as simple and crude as can be.