School & District Management

Homework, Friends Help Shape Teenagers’ Sleep Patterns

By Sarah D. Sparks — December 10, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Includes updates and/or revisions.

It’s no secret that students’ sleep habits deteriorate in puberty, but high schoolers may owe their sleep-encrusted eyes as much to social changes as biological ones.

A new University of Cincinnati study finds parents, peers, and school environment are more likely to predict whether a student sleeps well than developmental stage alone.

Previous research has shown adolescents have a natural drop in melatonin, a chemical that promotes sleepiness. That can make it harder for them to go to sleep and make them more vulnerable to other physical interruptions of their circadian sleep cycle, such as those created by melatonin-suppressing light. (‘Blue Light’ May Impair Students’ Sleep, Studies Say, Dec. 11, 2013)

“When adolescents have trouble sleeping, doctors often recommend prescription drugs to address the problem,” said David J. Maume, the study author and a sociology professor at the university. “My research indicates that it’s necessary to look beyond biology when seeking to understand and treat adolescents’ sleep problems.”

Role of Homework, Friends

The study, published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, tracked the sleep habits of 974 middle-class adolescents over three years, from the ages of 12 to 15. During that time, the teenagers’ average sleep time dropped from more than nine hours each school night in 6th grade to less than eight hours each school night by age 15.

That’s in line with the most recent study, in 2006, of adolescents by the Arlington, Va.-based National Sleep Foundation, which found adolescents’ bedtime drags from 9:24 p.m. on average in 6th grade to after 11 p.m. by senior year, though their average school start-times remain at 7:30 a.m. The foundation considers nine hours a night to be “optimal” sleep for students from grades 6-12 and anything less than eight hours a night to be “insufficient.”

Students who reported heavy loads of homework were significantly more likely to be sleep-deprived, particularly if the homework load had increased a lot from age 12 to 15. Moreover, students who used computers frequently on school nights were more likely to have shorter and more sporadic sleep.

Friends could help or hurt students’ sleep habits, Mr. Maume also found. Students who reported a strong attachment to their schools and positive relationships with friends had longer and less disrupted sleep.

“Teens who have prosocial friends tend to behave in prosocial ways, which includes taking care of one’s health by getting proper sleep,” he said.

However, students who reported stressful relationships with friends or disengagement at school had worse sleep habits. In particular, girls were more likely than boys to report sleep problems related to “worrying about homework, friends, or family.”

Students whose parents remained closely involved and kept set bedtimes as students got older had longer and less disrupted sleep.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Biology Explains Only Part Of Teenagers’ Sleep Losses

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 'It Has to Be a Priority': Why Schools Can't Ignore the Climate Crisis
Schools have a part to play in combating climate change, but they don't always know how.
16 min read
Composite image of school building and climate change protestors.
Illustration by F. Sheehan/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty and E+)
School & District Management Some Districts Return to Mask Mandates as COVID Cases Spike
Mask requirements remain the exception nationally and still sensitive in places that have reimposed them.
4 min read
Students are reminded to wear a mask amidst other chalk drawings on the sidewalk as they arrive for the first day of school at Union High School in Tulsa, Okla., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.
Chalk drawings from last August remind students to wear masks as they arrive at school.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
School & District Management Women Get Overlooked for the Superintendent's Job. How That Can Change
Three female superintendents spell out concrete solutions from their own experience.
4 min read
Susana Cordova, former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Susana Cordova is deputy superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and former superintendent for Denver Public Schools.
Allison V. Smith for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion You Can't Change Schools Without Changing Yourself First
Education leaders have been under too much stress keeping up with day-to-day crises to make the sweeping changes schools really need.
Renee Owen
5 min read
conceptual illustration of a paper boat transforming into an origami bird before falling off a cliff
wildpixel/iStock/Getty