The release of Grand Theft Auto V this month is eagerly anticipated in many households across the country. Many of those old enough to play the 18 certificate game will be planning long sessions of on-screen violence, mayhem and, possibly, bowling. But research from Oxford University suggests that teenagers should take care not to play video games too late into the night.
Adolescence is linked to changes in sleep patterns, probably due to changes in hormone production. These changes mean adolescents need more sleep – nine to ten hours per night – but there are also changes in circadian rhythms so that teenagers naturally feel more awake later at night (and then have more difficulty getting up in the morning!). Also, because the hormones concerned are primarily released at night, sleep is more disturbed, so teenagers often naturally exhibit signs of sleep deprivation, such as irritability, moodiness and changes in performance at school.
Professor Foster at Oxford University acknowledges these natural reasons why teenagers stay up late, but stresses that research data shows that using electronic devices late at night means that teenagers are delaying the time they go to bed still further, and finding it harder to go to sleep when they are in bed. His concern is that not getting enough sleep has a real impact on quality of life and educational performance.
BBC Scotland’s report on this finding also included news from a study by psychologist Jane Ansell that more than half of all Scottish teenagers may be sleep deprived, with about 20 per cent reporting that they had fallen asleep in lessons at least once in the last two weeks.