Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed 
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head 
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired.
William Shakespeare: Sonnet 27

Medical textbooks recommend that a healthy teenager who is about to enter college or university needs around eight hours of sleep a night. On my irregular but frequent wanderings around the KYUEM campus in the company of both male and female staff, I am constantly aware that many of our students are not getting anything like that amount. Moreover, I often teach first thing in the mornings and a significant number of students are late for the 8.00 am class, or tired and sleepy when they arrive. We have had occasions during the recent trial examinations of students completely missing a test paper because they had failed to wake up in time for an early start. This would be a disaster if it happened during a real CIE test paper in the coming weeks.

Of course, neither I nor anyone else on the staff can force students to sleep. Most young people like to stay up late and sleep in the next day. This seems to be a pattern that repeats itself around the world and is a predictable feature of young adult behaviour. Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be much lasting damage. A few years ago, research was conducted in the USA on the so-called “sleep debt.” This is a belief that you need to make up all the hours of sleep lost over a given period. It has proved to be completely erroneous. In a series of experiments, a group of volunteers deprived themselves of sleep over a continuous period which averaged around 72 hours. If the theory was valid, they would need about 24 hours of sleep to catch up what had been lost to cancel out the debt. In every case, the volunteers needed no more than 12 hours of continuous sleep to function normally again, and frequently they required a lot less.

More recent research shows that perhaps we are exaggerating the need for young people to get enough sleep:

I know that our 11.30 pm curfew at KYUEM is not popular, which is why this week I have extended it to 12.30 am on Friday and Saturday nights. Nonetheless, with Cambridge examinations only weeks away, and with many of those exams scheduled for an early start time in the mornings, I hope our students will at least get a little more sleep beforehand. They need to start the day of examinations sharp, refreshed and confident of their abilities. They are more likely to demonstrate such qualities if they have a solid seven or eight hours sleep the night before each test paper.


  1. Dear Dr. Rogers
    I agree completely. Without doubt,sleep deprivation has both short and long term repercussions on health and well being. Appreciate your subtle approach and all the best to you

  2. Thanks so much. This kind of response is most encouraging.