Late Teen Bedtimes, Bad Teen Grades

OK, so he's a preteen, but my son stayed up till 3 a.m. some nights over the summer.  It was great.  He quietly played FIFA soccer on his computer and put himself to bed.  They were the easiest evenings pretty much of our lives.

But a new study has shown just how dangerous that can be.  And I don't mean trying to get him to go to bed at 8:30 during the school year (though that was, indeed, a nightmare).

The study found that many teens go to bed at 11:30 or later, even on school nights, and that those who do can count on getting lower grades.  According to newswise.com, "Late bedtimes during the school year, especially in younger teens, predicted lower cumulative grade point average and more emotional distress by college age."

“Going to bed after 11:30 pm, particularly in younger adolescents, predicted worse cumulative grade point average at high school graduation and more emotional distress in the college years and beyond,” newswise.com quotes the study’s lead author Lauren D. Asarnow, MA, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Surprisingly (or maybe not so), the suggestion is to start school later.  I'm all for that!  I used to be a morning person until my son entered middle school, with a starting time of 7:25.  That means up at 6, or earlier, race around the house for breakfast, clothes, and homework so we can be out of the house by 7:05 (we live too close for a bus).

My prized days of getting up early before anyone else to go for a run have ended.

At the start of the school year (because we turned the clocks ahead so early this year), it was dark right up until I dropped him off.  Now, with daylight savings over, it's light by about 6:30!  Try crawling out of bed on a cold, pitch-dark morning and see just how cheerily you greet the day.

But, back to the study. Twenty-three percent of study participants reported going to bed at 11:15 pm or later. "By the time these teens reached graduation and college age, late school year bedtimes in high school predicted both lower cumulative GPA at graduation and more emotional distress between age 18 and 26," newswise.com reports.

The researchers noted previous research found that adolescents who preferred late activities and bedtimes and who were tested in the morning, performed worse on cognitive tasks.

The good news?  A teen's sleep patterns are "highly modifiable," according to the story.  But experts note there's a little biological problem here that makes getting 30 to 40% of them to bed earlier a wee bit more difficult, newswise.com notes, quoting the study’s lead author Lauren D. Asarnow, MA, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. "Delayed bedtimes have a biological basis tied to the onset and progress of puberty," she tells the Web site.

And it's not just streaming video keeping these kids up late.  Academic pressure, habits around technology use and the bedtimes of friends also influence a teen’s choice to turn in or stay up late, the Web site points out.

The need to rise very early for school can put students at risk for under-performance academically and for other problems tied to a lack of sleep.  Newswise.com attributes this comment to Timothy Monk, Ph.D., director of the Human Chronobiology Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh, who says, "An early school start time both limits the sleeping time of the student and asks him or her to learn at what is close to the nadir of their circadian cycle."

We've finally gotten our 12-year-old to go to bed around 8:45, but he still has the last word.  He says he never goes to sleep before 10.


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