“The average person is still under the aberrant delusion that nature can be delayed until we’re ready to follow her. Our desires, wants, and needs are no match for her rule of engagements.” Dr. Jack Kruse
Do you notice a change in your child’s energy levels and mood when their sleeping schedule is disrupted? Does staying up past bedtime cause your child to wake up the next day cranky or tired? Have you noticed that your child’s sleeping habits are affected after spending too much time on electronic devices, especially at night?
Research shows that synchronizing one’s circadian rhythms to their environment is key in achieving not only mental and physical wellbeing but success in school. If there’s misalignment, a condition called social jetlag occurs, wreaking havoc on the body.
According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and dark. They affect most living things including humans, animals, plants and microbes and can influence hormone release, eating habits and digestion, and body temperature. Biological clocks reside in nearly all of our tissues and organs, and they regulate the circadian rhythms’ cycle. The master clock is located in the brain, and it keeps everything in sync.
The body produces circadian rhythms through natural factors that assist in activating feelings of wakefulness, alertness, and sleepiness. Signals from the environment can also affect circadian rhythms. One of the most significant factors affecting circadian rhythms is light. Depending on the kind of light and time of exposure, light can benefit or negatively impact the body.
For instance, getting sunshine during the day can enhance sleep at night, but artificial blue light emitting from devices and other light sources at night can suppress production of melatonin, causing a disruption in sleep. Kids are more vulnerable to the effects of blue light with regards to melatonin production. It is believed that they may be more sensitive to light than adults.
Melatonin is a key marker of the body’s circadian clock. Not long after sundown, our circadian clock signals the body to release melatonin overnight. Certain kinds of light cause disruption in melatonin production, making the body feel like it is in a different time zone, or social jet lag.
An example of this is when students’ class schedules differ from their individual times of peak alertness, resulting in a decline in their performance at school. Chronobiology says that social jet lag can affect grades, pointing out that “students whose internal clocks are out of sync with their class times earn lower grades than those whose circadian rhythms better match their daily schedules.” To enhance students’ academic success, researchers suggest creating structure so that non-class days resemble the students’ class days. Nature reports that a study comparing school performance between students who kept regular sleep schedules and those who slept irregular hours found that those who followed a consistent routine had a higher GPA than those who slept irregular hours.
Structure is key for kids’ academic achievement. In my teaching career, I have witnessed the effects of circadian rhythms misalignment in kids. I found that the students whose parents kept a consistent schedule and monitored their device usage, along with watching TV, performed better academically and didn’t struggle with energy levels.
I am reminded of a family who contacted us a while back needing help with getting their teenage daughter on a consistent schedule because she was sleeping late, had trouble with time management, and her grades suffered. We assessed the student’s habits including her sleep schedule/device usage, and we developed a plan to help the student be successful. In time, as the student’s self-discipline increased, we saw a significant improvement in her grades and time management skills.
As device usage proliferates in our culture, the more we will notice evidence of circadian rhythms misalignment. In kids, it is something that parents must address early so that good habits can develop. If you find that your child is experiencing the effects of social jet lag and you would like to get help creating a structure that is tailored for him, Dynamis Learning Academy can help.
Contact the owner, Helen Panos at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 770-282-9931, to schedule a free consultation and help your child reach his or her full potential when it comes to healthy habits.
Helen is an expert educator with over 25 years of years of experience. She believes in the importance of helping children reach their potential and become well-rounded, intelligent citizens with a positive influence and impact on society. She assists parents in accessing the best skills, strategies, tools, and resources to help children be successful and ultimately excel in the world.