x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A case for letting us teenagers get more shut-eye

I recently read that teenagers need at least nine hours and 15 minutes of shut-eye every night to keep the body clock well oiled and running smoothly.

School started last week and it's hard to shake yourself out of the languid routine of the summer holidays. Gone are the days when we could complete our recommended hours of sleep, something that should be a basic human right. Dragging ourselves up has become a Herculean task.

I have often wondered why school starts so very early in the morning. I suspect it's a crafty method of torture devised by all those slow-forgiving, grudge-holding adults. I suppose we teenagers can occasionally (OK, most of the time) be crabby, rude and hair-tearingly irritating. There's nothing we hate more than having to wake up early for the start of the working week on a Sunday morning, or Monday, depending on which part of the world we live in.

The adults, much as we hate to admit it, can put two and two together. They have discovered that the best way to pay us back for any petty misdemeanours is to drag us out of bed at 6am and deposit us at school at unholy hours. The early mornings mean that we are even crabbier than usual, which gives them something to complain about and allows them to ease their conscience about the ordeal they are putting us through.

The result is that we are not getting nearly as much sleep as we deserve. I recently read that teenagers need at least nine hours and 15 minutes of shut-eye every night to keep the body clock well oiled and running smoothly: that means we ought to be saying good night by a quarter to nine if we are to wake up at six the next morning. That is simply out of the question if you consider that we return home from school at 4pm.

Then there are all the demands piled on to teenagers - and the essential things we have to do such as going shopping, dissecting vital aspects of life on the phone with friends, watching television, eyebrow plucking and dinner. This means that it is already well past nine. And we haven't even got to the minor details, such as homework, yet.

We aren't asking for much. A more relaxed work schedule would make us more productive. Our overworked brains could only benefit from refresh and recharge time; our cells need to rejuvenate and build up all the metabolic chemicals they need to keep us running on a fresh supply of energy for the next day. There are neural pathways to be built; anything we have learnt is likely to be consolidated as we snore on. Dreams are the body's way of running checks on its vital functions, memory and muscles of the eye. When we ask for our share of 40 winks, we do have a valid scientific reason for it - it's not just us being lazy as usual and trying to worm our way out of good hard work.

A lost night's sleep should be compensated for the next day; if we've been partying out all night, what we deserve is a welcoming bed - not a grounding.

The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai