If you’re concerned that your school day starts too late or that your teenager sleeps in too long, don’t despair. A new study shows that homeschoolers are happier, healthier, and perform better academically and socially because they get more sleep than their public and private school peers.
Led by Lisa Meltzer, a sleep psychologist at National Jewish Health, the study examined the sleep patterns of 2,612 teenagers, including nearly 500 homeschoolers. It found that homeschoolers sleep 90 minutes more per night and wake up an average of 18 minutes after the first bell sounds at high school.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of shut-eye each night to function best. Meltzer’s study found that over 55 percent of homeschool teens get the ideal amount of sleep each week, compared to just 24.5 percent of traditional school students. Only 16.3 percent of homeschoolers said they don’t get enough sleep.
Attempting to coax a teen into an earlier bedtime isn’t necessarily the answer to sleep deprivation, however. During puberty, adolescents’ biological sleeping and waking patterns move forward by about two hours. Due to this shift, it is natural for a teenager to hit the hay around 11 p.m., according to the NSF.
“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.
While homeschoolers typically have the flexibility to adjust their school day schedules to allow for extra a.m. snoozing, high schools are fielding protests that students aren’t alert enough for a 7:15 a.m. roll call.
“Academics, and the ability to learn, concentrate, and pay attention is all diminished when you haven’t had enough sleep,” Meltzer said. “But more than that, a lack of sleep can also impact a teenager’s mood.”
In the NSF’s 2006 “Sleep in America” poll, 73% of teenagers who reported feeling unhappy, sad, or depressed also reported not getting enough sleep at night and being excessively sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation can even lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior, such as yelling, impatience, irritability, and loss of temper.
Sources: National Jewish Health, sleepfoundation.org
What time does school start for your teenager? Have you had to adjust his or her schedule?