One Advantage of Homeschooling: Teens Can Sleep Later

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In the first study of its kind, researchers have determined that teens who are homeschooled benefit from healthier sleep habits than those who go to most private and public schools, according to an article on the National Jewish Health website:

“The findings provide additional evidence of teens’ altered biological clocks and support an argument for starting traditional high school later in the morning.

‘We have a school system that is set up so that the youngest children, who are awake very early in the morning, start school latest, and our adolescents, who need sleep the most, are being asked to wake up and go to school at a time when their brains should physiologically be asleep,’ said Lisa Meltzer, PhD, a sleep psychologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, and lead author of the study.

‘Adolescents need nine hours of sleep a night and if they’re only getting seven hours, on average, by the end of the week they are a full ten hours of sleep behind schedule,’ said Meltzer, ‘and that impacts every aspect of functioning.’

Meltzer and her colleagues charted the sleep patterns of 2,612 students, including nearly 500 who are homeschooled. They found that adolescent homeschooled students slept an average of 90 minutes more per night than public and private school students, who were in class an average of 18 minutes before homeschooled children even awoke.

‘That cumulative sleep deprivation adds up,’ said Meltzer. ‘The ability to learn, concentrate and pay attention is all diminished when you haven’t had enough sleep. But more than that, a lack of sleep can also impact a teenager’s mood and their ability to drive early in the morning,’  she said.

If your teenager needs more sleep, why not just send them to bed earlier? ‘It’s not that simple,’ said Meltzer. Melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep, shifts by about two hours during puberty. So, even if they wanted to get to sleep earlier, teenagers are battling biological changes in their bodies that are nearly impossible to overcome.

‘It’s not that they don’t want to go to bed, but physiologically they simply can’t fall asleep earlier. So, the logical solution is to allow them to sleep later,’ said Meltzer.” (Read more here.)

I’m glad this article points out the real problem: Young children who insist on waking up at 5 AM, and preschools that don’t start until 9:30 AM.

Just kidding. (Though I do remember watching many sunrises when my kids were littler . . .). This is one important way in which the flexibility afforded by homeschooling is a distinct advantage. How can we extend the opportunity to sleep later to teenagers who go to traditional schools?

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2 Responses to “One Advantage of Homeschooling: Teens Can Sleep Later”

  1. Courtney Ostaff says:

    How about avoiding the stupidity of high schools that start at 7:00am, after an hour and a half bus rides, and elementary schools that don’t start until 9:00am? There’s no good reason for it. The excuse is to allow students more time for sports practice. So all the students should suffer for the 10% that participate in sports?! Why not make practice later in the day, when they’re more awake? The truth is that it’s the teachers (whose circadian rhythms aren’t being disrupted, and who don’t need as much sleep) who voted for for these schedule changes, for their own convenience. When an organization as monolithic and as resistant to change as the US Army adjusts their basic training schedule so their 18-yr-old recruits can get more sleep, then schools should take note.

  2. There are so many advantages to homeschooling they can hardly be numbered–but it is true, sleep is one of them. My favorite was the time to read rather than wait in line or scurry from class to class.

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