Some homeschooling parents insist that their children have regular bedtimes and get plenty of sleep. Many of these same parents are up late and aren’t giving themselves the benefit of at least seven hours worth of sleep.
Some homeschooling parents don’t have regular bedtimes for their children who often aren’t getting enough sleep. Typically these parents are also sleep-deprived.
If you and your children have regular sleep routines, you are likely to be healthier and more motivated than the rest of us. Just be careful that pride isn’t your downfall. 😉
Why Sleep is So Important to Homeschoolers
My teenage son, who likes to test the limits of sleep deprivation, recently asked me about dreams. He thinks I know way more about psychology than I do and I let him persist in his delusion. I equated dreaming with website maintenance. Websites typically become unavailable while work is being done to enhance their efficiency.
In the same way, we need to sleep so our brains can form new connections based on what we’ve learned. My theory on dreaming is that as the brain works, sorting through the events and emotions of our day, the conscious part of our brains tries to make sense of it all. The result? An often nonsensical dream that we will only recall if we wake up in the middle of it.
Sleep deprivation means that information doesn’t get stored in our memories. It means that our brains and even our bodies will operate less and less efficiently until eventually we have to go offline. We get sick.
Studies of sleep-deprived university students have found associations with:
- lower grades
- dropped courses
- negative mood
- increased procrastination
- decreased perception of ability (students assume they “can’t do it.”)
These behaviors are exactly the opposite of what we want in our students (and ourselves!).
It’s Not How Much, But When
Homeschoolers often feel comfortable keeping erratic sleep schedules because they know their schedules afford them the flexibility to sleep in or make up for sleep deprivation later. However, studies suggest that being able to make up for sleep loss may be a myth. In college, I learned that even more important than the amount of sleep we get is the regularity with which we get it. What’s more, a constantly changing sleep schedule is likely to interfere with your ability to sleep soundly–even when you’re tired.
The summer I did a 12-week Body for Life transformation, I got up at 6 a.m. every morning and went to bed around 11 p.m. each evening. I have never felt more energetic. While I still keep this schedule in general, there are too many days and nights that I vary from it…and I feel it!
And my kids? I’ve mentioned before that my kids are up late and sleep late, but I think we need to be more consistent with bedtime in particular. I hope to motivate my husband to help me by having him read this post and the ones referenced at the end of this post.
Do a Sleep Study
I participated in a Track Your Happiness study using my iPhone. I was able to look at a graph that compared how much sleep I got with my happiness. There wasn’t an obvious relationship. If instead, I had a comparison between my sleep schedule and happiness, I am sure I would have found consistency equaled happiness.
The blog post, Homeschooling and Sleep Deprivation: 8 Things You Should Know, suggests you do a sleep study at home. I love this idea! Have your children help you with a little psychological research. Record the times you and your children go to sleep and wake up and also have them rate themselves on variables you consider important to homeschooling (e.g., attention, cheerfulness, assigned work finished). You may want to rate them, too. I’d like a dollar for every time one of my children has screamed at me that they’re not tired. 🙂 You may want to consider having two experimental conditions: 1) Allowing you and your kids to sleep as they currently do or as they choose 2) Going to bed and getting up at the same times.
When you have the results (I suggest at least a week to gather data), ask your children what conclusions they draw. Is an amount of sleep or a regular sleep time important? If so, what changes do they think should be made with regard to sleep?