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 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.

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