You stay up late. Here’s why it’s okay.


Photo Illustration by Brinda Ambal

Instead of sleeping, you might find yourself perusing TikTok or FaceTiming a friend.

Your house is silent. Your covers are pulled up over your head. Your face is washed over with the slightly sickening, pale glow of your phone, and your pallid complexion is fitting for the situation. You are so tired, your eyelids droop as TikTok after TikTok scrolls past your reddening eyes. So, why haven’t you gone to sleep yet?

Scientists say one reason might be rooted in biology. Insomnia specialist and sleep researcher Wendy Texel mentioned in her TEDx Talk that the average teenage body tends to release the hormone melatonin at around 11 p.m., two hours later than adults and younger children. Without the production of melatonin, we will have trouble falling asleep.

Some of us scoff when we see 11 p.m., because we will see the wee hours of the morning and then sleep through half the day. Researchers at the University of Michigan theorized that as we become a teenager, our hormones drive us to want to be more independent. The wee hours of morning when adults aren’t around just so happen to be the perfect time during which we can do what we want. When our parents aren’t awake, and the world is dark and silent, it’s a lot easier to pretend we don’t answer to or depend on anyone.

Some of us take this time to have deep Snapchat conversations about existential crises with our friends. But others, the introverts amongst us, might use it to take a break from social interactions. It’s sacred time to yourself. Even during quarantine, when we literally don’t leave our houses, school days are still filled with Google Meets and Zooms and even FaceTime with friends. This does not mean introverts don’t enjoy social interactions, they might just need some time to recharge, plentiful between 12 and 2 a.m.

As teenagers, it is widely accepted that we need eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. Researchers are divided as to whether these hours are only effective when you sleep and wake at “reasonable” hours, or if it’s alright to go to bed late as long as you sleep in the next day. Some say night owls are putting their health at serious risk, while some chronobiologists recommend following one’s own biological clock, even if it has you sleep late.

While the field of sleep science yields varying results, there are enough reasons explaining why we like staying up late to justify it, especially when we are able to sleep in later the next morning. Take this time to sleep. Get a lot of it, and relish every minute. August is coming sooner than you think, and before you know it, we will be sitting in desks at 7:35 a.m.