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Sun 26 Jun 2011 06:03 BBC Radio Scotland

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 29 September 2010

Today's teenagers might be into sleepovers - but they're not into sleep. Social networking, texting, 24-hour TV and computer games are keeping them up way past even their parents' bedtimes. And caffeinated drinks don't help.

Meanwhile the evidence is piling up that a good night's sleep is essential for all of us. While your body's dozing, your brain processes everything you've learned during the day, and all the emotional highs and lows. Physical functions are regulated, like the hormones that influence how much you want to eat. So if you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to experience mood swings, free-wheeling appetite, and difficultes in remembering what you learned the day before. And if you're a teen, you need nine, not eight, hours' sleep per night.

These are some of the facts that students at a secondary school in Glasgow got to grips with when they took part in a pioneering "sleep class" run by the charity Sleep Scotland. But can you really teach teens to want to sleep? Clare English joined the class to find out.

The class taught them the theory - but it was an interactive experiment that made all the difference. After just three nights of good sleep, the pupils were converted ...

  • Make My Teenager Sleep

    Make My Teenager Sleep

    These are the pupils at St Paul’s High School in Glasgow who came up with the idea of an experiment to see for themselves whether getting good sleep would make any difference to how they felt – or looked.

    For three nights in a row each went to bed early enough to get nine hours’ sleep. No excuses, no mobile phones.

    St Paul’s High School
  • Mark (14)

    Mark (14)

    Normally I get about 6 and a half to 7 hours’ sleep each night. I took part in the experiment to see if my concentration would get better if I got more sleep, and I was able to get about 9 hours each night.

    After the 3 days, I felt more alert and I could concentrate more in school. I also felt happier and I enjoyed myself more when I was in school. I also felt that I was helping around in my house more, doing more housework etc. It is worth going to bed earlier as it makes you feel like a better person and helps you with your schoolwork.

    For these reasons I will definitely keep going to my bed earlier and get the amount of sleep I need. If there are other teenagers reading this then I would advise you to do the same as myself and try and get about 9 hours sleep each night because it really does help!

  • Chrishell (14)

    Chrishell (14)

    Normally, I would get around seven to eight hours of sleep. During the experiment, I got roughly eight and a half to nine hours’ sleep.

    I would definitely say that getting more sleep made a big impact on me. My moods were always happier and I felt refreshed. I physically felt more alert and active; for example, in PE. I also felt more focused in my schoolwork and more confident in answering questions aloud.

    Getting more sleep also affected my looks as I didn’t look so tired all the time and I had less dark circles under my eyes which made me happier in a way. Getting more sleep definitely affected my schoolwork as I was more aware of what was asked of me and I found that I understood things better. For example in Chemistry (one of my hardest subjects) I was picking things up faster and as a result of this, I enjoyed the subject when normally I couldn’t wait for it to finish. Overall, it was worth going to bed earlier because both my friends and I enjoyed my pleasant attitude towards the day.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t have the odd late night here and there, but I would recommend getting more sleep to other teenagers as it does work and it will help them in the long term with exams.

  • Callum (15)

    Callum (15)

    In a normal night I get around seven hours sleep, which is not a lot compared to what you’re supposed to have. During the experiment I went to bed every night at ten o’clock and woke up at seven o’clock.

    Getting very little sleep affected me emotionally, academically and physically. I felt more moody and found it harder to concentrate in school and also at home. I struggled to exercise as I felt too tired and less alert. I felt like I looked physically less attractive and scruffy, and I even noticed I was getting more spots than usual. When I did the experiment my spots lessened and it made me feel happier and more confident.

    Overall I think getting to bed earlier is a must as it helps you in all matters from school to personal reasons. I think I will probably keep going to bed earlier as I feel happier now and more capable of enjoying sports and find it a lot easier to concentrate in school. Personally I would advise teenagers who are not getting enough sleep to try it out and see if it helps them the way it has helped me.

  • Kerry (15)

    Kerry (15)

    I usually aim to get around 8 hours’ sleep on a school night, but I always wake during the night. At weekends I get about 9 to 10 hours’ sleep. Throughout the experiment I got 9 hours’ sleep a night.

    I felt a lot more lively in the mornings and I also felt it affected my confidence as I sang out in my music class which I would never normally do. My attitude improved too. I was smiling and laughing more and not moaning about things in
    the house. Getting that extra hour of sleep also helped me in my schoolwork. For example, in maths I was able to get the answers a lot more easily. My performance at the gym was better than usual too. I felt I had much more energy
    and I could do more exercise than usual.

    I think getting more sleep is extremely important and I will definitely continue to do it.

  • Aidan (14)

    Aidan (14)

    Hello my name is Aidan and I participated in the sleep experiment.

    Usually I would get around 8 hours sleep but when doing the experiment I got 9 and a bit, and it has made a difference, bettering my attitude towards school and class tasks and I also seem to be much happier and feel more fresh, so going to bed earlier has improved my attitude to things and has been worth going to my bed earlier and I am going to continue doing so.

  • Derrick (15)

    Derrick (15)

    I usually aim to get around seven and a half hours’ sleep on a school night, but I always wake up during the night to have something to eat. At the weekends I don’t get in the house until 11.30pm or midnight and once I get in I’m up until 3 or 4am because I play a game called South Africa World Cup.

    During the experiment I tried to go to my bed at 10pm and woke up at 7am or 7.30am and it helped me work much better in school (work harder, listen better, take part etc).

    It helped me a lot because I got myself into to going to my bed at 10pm on school nights but weekends will never change because I like stay out late.

  • Evanna (15)

    Evanna (15)

    In PSE (Personal and Social Education) we had visitors from Sleep Scotland who came and did a few sessions on sleep and the effects of sleep or no sleep on our bodies.

    I learned that I need sleep especially this year as it is important that I work to my full potential in class. Since the experiment I have noticed a change in myself and also my classmates. I feel comfortable enough to go to school without make-up on whereas before my confidence was lacking. I feel more energised and able to do well in PE as I have loads more energy and I do not feel so drowsy or tired.

    I would say to everyone out there who thinks it isn’t cool to go to bed early that we didn’t think so either until we tried it and if you forget about what other people think and do it for yourself you will see results.

  • Pamela (15)

    Pamela (15)

    Before Sleep Scotland spoke to us, no-one at home had a good sleeping pattern and when I found out how many hours sleep you needed to be fully rested for the next day I was shocked.

    I went straight home that day and told my parents about this and they too were shocked. As my dad works night shifts, it was more about telling him because he needs the most sleep. After only a few days my dad was making the effort to get into a proper sleep habit and is now getting the full amount of sleep he needs.

    Thanks to the sleep lessons we had we are all now getting the sleep we need.

  • Raymond


    When I found out Sleep Scotland was coming to our school I was very curious to find out what they were about. They told us that humans are the only species on earth that messes about with their sleep patterns, especially teenagers. Teenagers need approximately 9 hours sleep.

    I went home and told my mum about the sleep patterns we need in our lives, and she was very surprised. My mum and I tried the sleep experiment by going to bed earlier and looking to see if there was a change. It took us a few days to get in the habit but we soon got a hang of it. Now my mum and I never sleep in for work or school.
    By getting the full amount of sleep we need, pupils in schools can get better grades for exams as sleep help take the things we learn into our long term memories.

    Thanks for helping us learn more about sleep and the effects it can have on our lives.

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