Sleeping patterns are radically affected by both internal and external sources. Mental and physical factors such as stress and illnesses can cause insomnia. Yet sleep patterns also change naturally depending on the stage of life a person is in. For example, people above the age of 70 can be well rested after only 6 hours of sleep a night while newborn babies generally need 15 to 16 hours of sleep every day.
School aged children and teenagers also require extensive sleep in order to accommodate their growth spurts. Unfortunately for youngsters who attend traditional school systems, classes start early in the morning and extensive homework and tests often force them to stay up late at night. In other words, people of school age often experience little time to sleep by anyone’s standards—even though they should sleep more than most other age groups.
Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. According to the Mayo Clinic, lack of sleep can affect a person’s immune system and make them less likely to fight off viruses like the common cold. The National Sleep Foundation admits that there is no “magic number” of hours that people must sleep determined by their age because the “right” amount of sleep differs for each individual. Yet there is a notable pattern of sleep deprivation amongst school-aged people that leads to issues such as fatigue, clumsiness, weight loss or gain and slower reaction times. If people do not have enough sleep then they are more likely to be irritable and have limited ability to concentrate and solve problems. Hence, someone who is sleep deprived is not likely to be a good student.
Some people are biologically inclined to stay up late and subsequently “sleep in” come morning. According to Psychology Today, there is a link between “night owls” and intelligence, with studies confirming that people who stay up late tend to have higher IQs than people who get up early. Unfortunately, traditional school systems are not kind to night owls. Whereas many jobs have options to “work the late shift,” mostly all schools demand that their pupils be at class by 9am at latest.
Luckily, homeschooling spares children from lack of sleep. A child who is homeschooled is free to follow their own natural sleep patterns and therefore learn when they are fully rested and wide awake. This increases awareness, health and happiness as well as the ability to remember information. Being able to learn on one’s own schedule is becoming so favorable that most online classes—including graduate and post-graduate degrees—are conducted in entirely asynchronous environments (meaning that the teacher and students do not have to be online at the same time in order to communicate).
Learning is not a matter of finding one mold that fits all; it is a process that is different for everyone and should therefore be conducted at the time and place that is right for each individual. Homeschooling and the rise of virtual asynchronous classes are ensuring that people have more control over when they learn which also makes them less prone to sleep deprivation than those who are trapped in a systematic setting. In order to expand our minds we must be healthy and getting a good night of sleep is essential to that.