For many parents, seeing their children sleep until noon is synonymous with laziness and neglect. It means having no ambitions in life or even wasting your life. Often this action is associated with other typical behaviors of young people, such as not tidying their room or leaving everything around.
Laziness is a source of anger and irritation for parents, especially when they notice their children grumble when they try to get them up before noon. Reluctantly, disheveled and with the sign of the pillow on their faces, with a rude and ill-tempered manner, during the weekend they sit at the table to eat with the family.
What many parents do not know is that sleeping more than usual is completely normal for adolescents and is part of a series of imbalances that are studied in many textbooks dedicated to this stage of development. In the next lines we analyze the topic in more detail.
Hormones and technology affect teen sleep
Hormonal disruption in adolescent males alters the sleep-wake cycle. His brain reprograms itself around the age of 11 or 12 and the androgen receptors modify the circadian rhythm. This causes the adolescent to go to sleep later, consequently to get up later.
Thus, sleeping until noon or even later is not just a matter of pleasure or rebellion, but also depends on the hormonal activity of the adolescent boy’s body.
In addition to hormones, the use (and abuse) of technology is another factor that contributes to this alteration of the circadian rhythm. There are several studies on the technology (computers and video games) with which adolescents spend hours and hours; the consequences of this habits go beyond addiction, reaching the point of causing attention deficit disorders.
Often after school and the hours dedicated to homework, children start a battle for the use of electronic devices and stay awake until late at night. If we consider that school requires you to get up very early in the morning, the result is a few hours of sleep (6 at most) in a period of life that requires at least 10 hours of night sleep.
This suggests that since the adolescent tends to get up later (and not because he uses the computer, but because of his biological rhythm), school should start later to ensure more effective learning.
Sleeping until noon and playing video games
Video games are dynamic, made up of action, colors, competition, rivalry and they stimulate the kids, inducing them to continue indefinitely until they beat the opponent or reach another goal. In a nutshell: play technology accelerates adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine, hormones that cause overexcitation and a sense of power, as well as giving pleasure.
Adrenaline accelerates reflexes and allows quick reactions. Cortisol maintains wakefulness and activity, while dopamine stimulates the pleasure of reward.
This is due to the artificial light which reduces the amount of melatonin produced (essential for inducing sleep). For this reason, in the end the adolescent does not feel the need to go to sleep when he should, but much later.
But there is also another important aspect to take into account: adolescents, regardless of gender, are not in control of their limits. This is why they often do not know when it is best to stop playing or surfing the internet to rest. It is up to parents to direct them in this regard and make them understand what the healthy limit is regarding the use of consoles and computers.
Like testosterone in boys, estrogen in girls also upsets emotions, cognitive abilities and the body from many points of view, including with regard to sleep. Estrogen receptors are activated in neurons, acting on the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and organizing the hormonal rhythm, mood, sleep and temperature.
Well, estrogen not only affects the neurons responsible for breathing, but also activates the sleep-wake rhythm and growth hormones. Between the ages of 8 and 10, girls begin to experience changes in their sleep habits.
The sleep regulator and the pituitary gland
The suprachiasmatic nucleus is a center that regulates the circadian rhythm by means of melatonin, through the pituitary, composed of a group of neurons located in the medial area of the hypothalamus.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus represents the internal and endogenous clock that receives information about ambient light through the eyes, and in particular through the retina. The latter contains photoreceptors, which make it possible to distinguish shapes and colors.
In addition to them, it also contains retinal ganglion cells in which a pigment known as melanopsin is present and which carry information up to the suprachiasmatic nucleus and through the retino-hypothalamic tract.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus takes this information on the light-dark cycle from the outside, interprets it and sends it to the superior cervical ganglion and from there the signal reaches the pituitary which responds by releasing melatonin. The secretion of melatonin is low during the day and higher during the night.
Serotonin is the precursor hormone of melatonin and as a neurormone responsible for tranquility and well-being, the more relaxed and in a good mood we are in the evening, the more we will be predisposed to the production of melatonin.
If, however, we are in a situation of emotional stress or difficulty, the hormone that will prevail is cortisol. Unlike serotonin, the latter delays the production of melatonin, making it more difficult to sleep. Teenagers are activated with video games and cortisol prevails in their bodies, which hinders sleep.
Brain waves and sleep between childhood and adolescence
One study showed that at age 9, girls ‘and boys’ brains exhibit the same brain activity during sleep. However, at age 12, girls see a 37% change in their brain waves compared to boys (Brizendine, 2006).
Scientists have concluded that girls ‘brains evolve faster than boys’. Campbell reports that the reduction of extra synapses in girls’ brains starts earlier. This aspect induces a more rapid maturation of the cerebral circuits.
Another no less important detail is the circadian rhythm which regulates cortisol levels in the body. In particular:
- There are the “larks” people, whose rhythm is diurnal and therefore wake up early by nature. They struggle to stay out late.
- And the “owl” people, who can sleep until noon or beyond and who are reborn in the evening, when they manage to spend many hours awake.
Sleeping until noon is not always synonymous with laziness
Based on the above, we can deduce that we cannot always assume that teenagers are lazy because they sleep until noon or later. Natural biological aspects must be taken into account.
Beyond the lark-owl classification, there are apathetic, lazy and irresponsible kids. For this reason, not everything can be justified with the hormonal storm, with the rhythm of the owl or with the use of technology until late.
Beyond that, it is crucial to treat each case as a stand-alone case. From time to time, parents will have to set limits, to control and regulate the use of technology by their children.
Sleeping until noon is not a teenage crime, especially if it happens infrequently. However, if it happens too often, it is necessary to investigate the causes and take appropriate measures to resolve the situation.