Monday, 9 November 2015

Tired Teens experiment

I look forward to the results of the experiment, I do worry somewhat that it may be disadvantaging some pupils though, there is no one size fits all where people are concerned. During my 13th year I was a get up at 8:55 to be in school on-time (usually) by 09:05 pupil who was often tired during the day particularly by late morning. My best friend could easily sleep 18 hours a day at the weekend and we were kind of proud of sleeping late.

As I started my 14th year things changed, on Valentines day I started a relationship with a girl who went for a walk on the beach every morning at 6:30. She would head out along Tynemouth beach round to King Eddy's and if there was time sometimes along to the Spanish Battery as well then back home. Desperate to be who she might want me to be I started meeting her and did find it tough for a week or two but rapidly adjusted to meeting her promptly at 6:30 with my new puppy Keeshond in tow. Along with that change jealously helped me make more changes; she was always at the school gates by 8:30, as were a few boys, so I had to have a presence there as well.

OK the rewards were exceptional, her 'strawberry blonde' hair lit up by east coast golden sunrise light reflected low across the sea was just mindblowingly beautiful to me. I would have got up at 2am and walked miles to be part of that light show. At that time of morning sometimes the beach was ours and ours alone. There were occasional dog walkers and runners but not many. We did shorter versions of the walk until well into winter when the bitter east wind made early mornings less than pleasant.

My school performance perked up, I was always on time, I was less fuzzy and less inclined to daydream during the day, if I did have a lie in til 8 or 9 o'clock at weekends I became aware of that too tired feeling that comes with having slept for too long and is hard to shake off.  We were together for years and there came a time when she went to a different college to me and had to get an early morning bus but I kept up the weekday walks and would often run 20 lengths of the beach or go for an early morning swim or surf before college started. I don't recall ever feeling mentally tired at college and I was very keen on sport doing weight and circuit training, playing rugby, badminton, tennis or other sports most days, swimming anything up to 5kms per day 5 days a week, so I don't think there were any negative impacts on physical tiredness either.

By the time I was working as a lifeguard I would be up for a dawn surf at 5 or paddle a kayak round to St Mary's lighthouse and back, then jog home and refuel then be back at the cabin as others arrived sleepy and tired from too much sleep. As I was going to bed no earlier than my friends I felt I was getting so much more value out of my days than they were. It made no sense to waste time sleeping in. I am writing this 43 years after that change moment and I am still usually up by 5, although not always tramping about outside I still do the occasional dawn walk or early morning paddle. My usual sleeping time is 5 hours, so not far off the recommended 6 but the baseline impact of that is: 1 hour x 365 days x 43 years = 15,695 extra wonderful waking hours. I owe my first proper girlfriend big time for that.
I hope there might be more experiments exploring changing teenage attitudes to early mornings or at least offering a way of catering for natural early birds to ensure they do not become the disadvantaged.

Sometimes what you think is good for you or what you think your body needs isn't the reality, with the right motivation it is not hard to find a different and better way to be.

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