Age And The Human Body Clock English Language Essay

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A study was carried out to review the body clocks (sleeping times and patterns) with the use of Bruck's sleep diary. The outcome was to determine if a persons ages can affect their body clock and the hours of sleep required. Throughout our lives our body clock cycles through different times, whilst we are children we may not need as much sleep as when we are 18 or 19, at this time our body clock can also be shifted backwards however after a few years it is said to return to normal on an earlier cycle. Due to the nature of growing up sleeping patterns of someone aged 17-19 may be very different to that of someone 20-25. To have a good understanding of our body clocks and sleep patterns can help with forward planning and time management as we know when we perform best and what needs to be achieved by when.

1. Introduction

Every person has a different sleeping pattern and requires more or less sleep. The amount of sleep required can be determined by what the individual has been doing that day and how much sleep they had the previous night and so on. It is recommended for teenagers to have between 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep per day (Editor of Teenshealth 2010), these times vary depending on your age, for someone over 20 it is recommended to have between 8 and 8 ½ hours however this is not all that effects human performance, other factors that may affect this are age, state of mind, emotions, mental and physical health... A circadian (diurnal) rhythm, also known as body clock is what control our sleeping patterns. Humans are not the only creatures to have a circadian rhythm (body clock), the rhythm is roughly a 24 hour cycle which we go throw every single day of our lives. The body clock (circadian rhythm) will tell us when we need sleep by making us feel tired however it will not send us to sleep and it is possible to fight through it and this is how we alter the cycle. Disruption to the cycle can cause problem such as insomnia, disorientation and fatigue. When a person travels through time zones they will adjust their body clock in order to adjust to the time zone, this is commonly known as jet lag and is easy to deal with. Other aspects of people's lives that can adjust their circadian rhythm are working shift patterns, stress due to many factor (mainly death of a friend/family member, relationship troubles, fear over exams or fear in general). Drugs (legal and illegal) can also have adverse effects on the circadian rhythm by effecting the way that the brain works.

Eating patterns are determined by the circadian rhythm which in turn determines the sleeping pattern, this is not just in humans, this is all living creatures across the board (see circadian rhythm, human health, Wikipedia for more information). Sleep and Eating patterns should be taken into consideration when time is being managed as these can be the two key elements of time management, just knowing when you will fall asleep, wake up, eat breakfast/lunch/dinner.

In teenagers it is common for them to become sleep deprived during the week and play catch up at the weekend, this is due to the fact that they go to sleep later but still need to wake up for college/school. It has been said that teenagers are becoming more zombie like as they reach puberty (Dr James B. 2008) This sleep deprivation can lead to serious mental and physical problems, e.g. Teenagers who work with machinery having accidents as they are too tired to operate it safely (biggest example is cars) or by working too much and having to use caffeine as a way to be lifted.

Undergraduate students fit into that statements in the previous paragraph very well as they are at the end of the adolescence range but also have other new factors to effect them, e.g. moving away for the first time, having the freedom of being away from parents and meeting new people in a new unknown environment.

Research indicates that first year undergraduate students are still running on the teenage body clock however this is likely to change over the duration of there course.

2. Method

Note: This is a report of an experiment, which generally requires the following sections; other types of reports might require a different mix of sections here - always check what's required. Each section has a short statement of what's required for your information. The content for the Method section will be provided.

2.1 Materials

A modified version of the morningness/eveningness (or time-of-day - TOD - type) questionnaire of Smith et al (1989) was selected to investigate any differences in the times of that day that people across a range of ages felt more alert. This questionnaire was chosen because it is well known and commonly used in the literature, is fairly short and can be easily self-administered. The questionnaire was modified slightly as a response to comments by students who completed it in 2007/08. Students reported that some of the time ranges used did not capture the range of times that current students preferred to do things, so they were modified accordingly, along with commensurate minor adjustments to the ranges of scores for the different categories (i.e., morning, intermediate, evening).

2.2 Participants

The main groups of participants were 162 UG students and 10 members of staff Nottingham Trent University (NTU). The ages of the students ranged from 17 to 35 years, and the staff from 36 to 54 years. 146 TOD questionnaires were returned and analysed.

2.3 Methodology

TOD questionnaires were handed out to level 1 students taking the Personal and Professional Development (PPD) UG module in the academic year 2009/10, and to a number of members of staff. Participants were asked to complete the questionnaires, following the instructions, and return them.

3. Results

Table 1 shows the data collected from staff and students who completed the TOD questionnaire. It gives the number and percentage of people scoring as morning, intermediate or evening types across a range of age groups.

Table 1: Time of Day types by age groups, 2009/10

Type:

Totals:

Age (yrs):

Morning

Intermediate

Evening

18

Number

9

29

17

55

Percentage

16

53

31

100

19

Number

9

17

19

45

Percentage

20

38

42

100

20

Number

2

5

5

12

Percentage

16

42

42

100

21-29

Number

7

4

7

18

Percentage

39

22

39

100

30-39

Number

4

2

1

7

Percentage

57

29

14

100

40+

Number

9

0

0

9

Percentage

100

0

0

100

Total:

146

Table 2: Average number of hours of sleep per night by age group

Table 2 shows the average age, the number of people from that age group and the number of hours sleep they get on average per night

Age (years):

Number:

Av. hrs per night:

18

37

8.0

19

30

8.0

20

9

8.5

21

7

6.5

22-29

6

6.9

30+

8

6.7

Charts

This bar chart is a graphical view on table 2 on the previous page, it shows the age group and the average hours of sleep per night.

These charts show the breakdown of morning,intermediate, evening types.

4. Discussion

The test that has been carried out could be seen as unfair as only 172 test subjects were used to create a fairer environment 500+ people could have been asked to complete the test. The more results collected equals the more accurate results. After taking the test myself I would disagree with the outcome it gave for me which was evening, I feel that I am more of an intermediate type but my results show that I would definitely be an evening as my score was far from the evening/intermediate boundary. Another key factor is that all the test subjects were students which are more likely to be different types to non students who work full time. Someone who works a 9-5 job will have adapted into a morning person however somebody working shift patterns may become an intermediate whilst students will more than likely be intermediate/evening as they stereotypically would go out more than non students and spend more time sleeping in the day.

More than one method would help to gather clearer results, the analysis of a sleep timetable recorded across 7 days for each person would be helpful although very time consuming. To help gather even better results more than 1 timetable of sleep would be useful, one for during term time and one for non term time. The idea of this would be that whilst not at university the students may not be out as much meaning that their circadian rhythm may start to adjust to intermediate or even morning. An estimated sleep timetable could be drawn up from a combination of the average sleeping hours and the Time of Day types by age groups

The result collected for 20-29 and 30-39 are more than likely mature students and staff who aren't as likely to be going to bed late and getting up later as they will be morning types due to the fact that they start work at 9am or are mature students who wake up earlier. More results for these two age group would be a definite improvement on this part of the experiment and again taking some people who work shift patterns would benefit the results as they would be more spread across the board.

This experiment is limited by the amount of results collected, obviously the more results collected the more accurate the results.

After looking over the results I believe that students should start lecture after 11am as this is the time that they will be most responsive and the learning will be more successful. This approach to the body clock doesn't really help in the workplace as the working day is 9-5 and that's when most business takes place. In a larger scale company it could be possible for the workforce to be split into two teams, one of which starts at 9 am and one of which starts at 11am, these teams could be rotated monthly or every two weeks, weekly may not be recommended as it could cause trouble to the body clock.

The results show that as the age increases, the number of hours sleep (on average) decreases, this could be due to the fact that as your age increase the demand for sleep decreases as the amount of physical activity lessens. Although the percentage of morning types increases with age, again this could be due to the nature of the persons work (hours). There will always be a few exceptions to the rules which will create anomalies in the results however these should be easy to pick up on. The results do support the fact that adolescence do need more sleep than that of older people and that they do have a much more varied and irregular sleeping pattern.

Something that we have all suffered from, post lunch dip, this is the time after we have lunch where we feel tired and a person's performance in temporarily lowered. Knowing this important meetings should be scheduled around this to avoid any carless mistakes as sleep deprivation has been known to cause errors. Taking this into account means that's the operation of machine whilst tired is also bad, sleep deprivation can be as bad for driving as alcohol (Dawson & Reid, 1997). The previous statement is reflected when young people are looking for car insurance, it is not entirely because new drivers are inexperienced and think that they are Michael Schumacher when they get behind the wheel.

McQueen (2009) has taken the 24 hour cycle and summarised the best times to do things over that time.

7.00AM

IT'S perfectly normal to be in a bad mood. Levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin fluctuate around this time.

8.00AM

Our heartbeat rises once we wake, from asleeping rate of 60 beats a minute to between 72 and 78. This is the most likely time for a heart attack, so take it easy.

9.00AM

The best time to have breakfast as your digestive system is at its most efficient, and any fats absorbed from food are less likely to be deposited in your body.

10.00AM

Your mind is at its sharpest. In terms of concentration levels, short-term memory and logical reason, you're at your best. The right time to make decisions and to sit an exam.

11.00AM

If one of your work colleagues is coughing, spluttering and sneezing, steer well clear. Your immune system is at its weakest because the white blood cells are at their least active.

NOON

Have lunch now so you can relax, take it easy, and keep your blood pressure low.

Your blood pressure is at its highest around this time, increasing your risk of a stroke by 50 per cent.

1.00PM

Your kidneys are working at maximum, urine production is at its peak and you're most likely to need the loo. 2.00PM

That mid-afternoon drowsy feeling is likely to hit around now as your lunch is digested and energy levels drop. You are most likely to have a road accident at this time, so avoid driving.

3.00PM

Aches and pains are likely to be less noticeable, thanks to endorphins being at their peak.

4.00PM

For best results, exercise as adrenaline levels are at their highest. Your lungs are also working at maximum efficiency, and hand-eye co-ordination is also good, so playing sports is a good idea.

5.00PM

Whether you've finished work or finished a work-out, chances are your body is in need of an energy boost, so eating carbohydrates at this time can help you.

6.00PM

Your stomach produces more acid in the early evening. If you've had your evening meal, this is when you are most likely to suffer indigestion.

7.00 PM

Eat your evening meal as your body is more relaxed than a couple of hours ago. It is producing melatonin in preparation for sleep, and smell and taste are at their peak, so you'll enjoy your meal more.

8.00PM

Between 8.00pm to 10.00pm is the best times to have an alcoholic drink because there are more liver enzymes to break it down than earlier in the day.

9.00PM

This is when aches and pains are most noticeable as the body's endorphin levels decrease. Time for painkillers.

10.00PM

Your immune system is at its peak and you are more able to fight off germs.

11.00PM

We are more sensitive to allergies at night, so a coughing or sneezing fit is more likely.

MIDNIGHT

If you're pregnant and near your due date, this is the time you are most likely to go into labour as the hormone that starts the process, progesterone, is at its highest level.

1.00AM

It's best to be in a deep sleep to give your body a chance to recover from the stresses of the day

2.00AM

The spleen is cleaning up your body and your skin is at its most absorbent, so slap on that night cream.

3.00AM

An asthma attack is 300 times more likely due to airways narrowing as adrenaline and anti-inflammatory hormones are at their lowest.

4.00AM

Thisis when you are most likely to die. Hospital deaths are more common at this time, possibly because blood pressure is at its lowest.

5.00AM

Night-shift workers will feel like dropping off because of high levels of sleep hormone melatonin.

6.00AM

The most common time for making love is between 10.00pm and 11.00pm, but if you want to conceive, leave it until now, when women are at their most fertile.

Time management is the most important aspect of scheduling. It should always be taking into consideration along with the human body clock. As previously stated the age of the person should be taken into consideration.

5. Conclusions

Looking back over the results of the investigation it is clear that 18-20 year old first year university students that participated in the experiment slept longer per night than those who are older. It is also clear that there is a greater variation in their sleeping patterns. To gather clearer results the best option would be to firstly gain more participants and secondly have more variations within the lifestyles of those being tested.

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