Study finds homeschool students sleep better: Research supports later start times for high school

March 7, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—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. 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 , 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 behind schedule," said Meltzer, "and that impacts every aspect of functioning."

Meltzer and her colleagues charted the 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 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 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. , the hormone that helps regulate our sleep, shifts by about two hours during . So, even if they wanted to get to sleep earlier, teenagers are battling 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.

Fifteen-year-old Caelin Jones couldn't agree more. Jones, who lives in Denver, says he sets his alarm every morning for six o'clock to get to school on time, though he never quite felt fully awake until several hours later.

"Most days I would get to school and pretty much be the same as all the other kids. We were all just bleary-eyed and wondering why we had to be here at this time," he said.

Jones' sleep problems became so consuming that he sought sleep counseling through Dr. Meltzer at National Jewish Health. "It's made a big difference for me," said Jones, who has learned habits to help him wind down at night.

The study concluded that more than half (55%) of teens who were homeschooled got the optimal amount of sleep per week, compared to just 24.5% of those who attend public and private schools. Conversely, 44.5% of public and private school teens got insufficient sleep during the school week, compared to only 16.3% of homeschooled teens.

The differences are stark," said Meltzer. "Across the country, public and private schools that have changed their start times see considerable benefits. Students are tardy less often and graduation rates are actually higher," she said.

While you may not be able to change teenagers' biology, you can help them develop healthier sleeping habits. Meltzer offers this advice:

  • Get all electronics out of the bedroom. TVs, computers, video games and phones are major distractions for teens and often delay sleep.
  • Don't look at any screens 30-60 minutes before bed time. Though turning off media is as simple as flipping a switch, the human brain does not work the same way. Being stimulated by media just before bed can make the too active to sleep.
  • Set up family charging stations where mom, dad and the kids plug in their phones at night so they are out of reach.
  • Most importantly, set a consistent routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This one habit can help regulate your body's internal clock and improve the quality of you get.

Explore further: Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens

Related Stories

Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens

September 29, 2012
A new study suggests that increasing the amount of sleep that teenagers get could improve their insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.

Moderate iPad use won't keep teens up at night

October 4, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Teenagers who use an iPad for an hour before bed are still likely to get a good night's sleep, new research from Flinders University shows.

Gaming before bed negatively impacts teens' sleep, research finds

October 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Teenagers should steer clear of prolonged video gaming if they want a good night's sleep, new research from Flinders University shows.

Five tips for a better night's sleep

April 17, 2012
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to get you going in the morning. Drexel’s Dr. Joanne Getsy offers some tips to jump start your body and mind.

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

daggoth
not rated yet Mar 07, 2013
In high school I could never fall asleep before 1am. Then get up for the bus at 6:30am? And my German teacher wondered why I slept all through first period...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.