When Bejamin Franklin coined this advice “Early to bed, early to rise”, perhaps he did not have teens in his mind. Also back then in his days, the pressure of schooling was not much. Even in our times, life was non competitive and relaxed. This is not the case today. Kids began going to school very early on.
It has been found that schools which start early morning, teens are not fresh. They find themselves tired and sleepy. Now the science has begun to unravel the chemistry behind the sleep.
Our bodies follow a rhythmic cycle of 24 hours duration. During this cycle, our bodies undergo different changes. For example blood pressure is more in the day than during night. These activities are controlled by certain clocks called biological clocks which are produced in the brain. These rhythmic cycles are called circadian.
One such chemical called melatonin is responsible for control of sleep. It is synthesised from an amino acid called tryptophan by action of enzymes. There is a intermediate product also which is called serotonin. Melatonin triggers the sleep. The reactions sequence is given below.
How the brain gets signals from the areas controlling eyes light and directs the production and breakdown of enzymes during night and day.
The production of enzymes especially SNAT which converts the serotonin to melatonin depends upon the time of the 24 hours cycle. As the sun goes down, it’s production begins to increase and so is the production of sleep inducing melatonin. During night time, it is bound to a phosphate ion which results in its high stability. As the morning comes, the enzyme begins to degrade and our brain signals wakefullness.
It so happens that the production of SNAT and melatonin in teens happens 2 to 3 hours later than children and adults, so teens find it difficult to go to sleep early. Since teens on average require 9 hours of sleep, going to bed late means deprivation of sleep. This results in laziness, sad mood, and poor performance in class.
In USA , many schools have changed the starting time to late that is around half past eight and found the rise in the performance of the teens and cheerful attitude.