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Why early rising harms your child

why rising ealy harms your child
Lesedauer: 6 Minuten

Can you remember your school days? And do you remember getting up early in the morning?

I’m not really a late riser, but especially in winter, getting up physically hurt me. I didn’t spend much thought on it when I was a kid. “That’s just the way it is,” I thought. And then all the smart sayings, “I used to have to go through that, too.” Okay.

Later, as a mother, I wondered why little kids had to stand on the street in the dark in the morning to wait for the school bus. While this is usually associated with nagging from the kids at most when they are elementary school age, dramas regularly play out in many families before breakfast when the kids hit puberty. In 8th grade, I regularly had to threaten my Lisa with a visit to the doctor at six o’clock in the morning so that she would get up, because she had suuuuch a terrible stomachache every morning and couldn’t get up at all because of it.  Well, a harmonious start to the day like in the Rama commercials definitely looks different.

And quite honestly, all the sayings a la “It’s always been like that”, “We all had to go through that”, that never hurt anyone, I don’t accept. That is anything but okay.  

Science now agrees that young people can’t get up early and be fit at the same time. Well, at least not all of them.

But let’s take a closer look.

I. Why teenagers need to sleep longer

1. The sleep needs of children and teenagers

Newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day. The need for sleep decreases steadily until school age, reaching ten to twelve hours for elementary school students and eight to ten hours for students in secondary school and above. This is what you can read in many tables on the Internet. Empirically measured, this may also be true. Unfortunately, it does not take into account the fact that the need for sleep is increasing again on average among 14- to 18-year-olds, as new studies show. So if your child got by on ten hours of sleep in elementary school and only needed nine hours in 5th grade, that doesn’t mean that eight hours of sleep is now enough for him in 8th grade. On the contrary. It’s quite possible that, like my Lisa, your child will suddenly have to pull herself out of bed every morning again, where she used to hop happily out of that very bed whistling.

More than half of children in the transition to puberty between the ages of 10 and 14 get too little sleep and, according to a study by Strauch and Meier*1 , would like 1.7 hours more sleep before school.

2. Sleep phase shift

Teenagers like to go to bed late. Going to bed early is prevented by meetings with friends, watching TV or gambling for too long. Let them just go to bed earlier if they are not well-rested in the morning, right?

Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that because with the onset of puberty, hormones go crazy. And this leads to a sleep phase shift.

Teens have a hard time falling asleep before midnight because their melatonin levels don’t rise until 11 p.m. and later. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body that controls the day-night rhythm. Low levels of melatonin mean we are wide awake, and high levels mean we feel the need to sleep. Blue light from computer screens etc. complicates the release of melatonin – quite clearly – but it is not the cause.

Not only do teenagers get tired at a later time, they also find it harder to fall asleep and sleep is lighter at the beginning of the night. This sleep phase shift means that the prime nocturnal sleeping time for middle and high school students is between three and eight in the morning. For most adolescents, then, the alarm clock rings at precisely the most important time for sleep. Some are even sitting in school when they should really still be in bed. A “social jet lag” according to Wittmann*2 with devastating consequences. Sleep debt accumulates and an irregular sleep rhythm develops (Taillard *3) as adolescents try to make up for their sleep deficit on weekends. Unfortunately, they find it all the more difficult to adjust their later weekend sleep rhythm back to the early school rhythm (*5 Dahl & Lewin), as I’m sure many parents find especially on Monday mornings.

II. the consequences of insufficient sleep in teenagers

1. Daytime sleepiness and lack of concentration

I must have been about 15 or 16 years old when I sat in rather lengthy lessons and could hardly keep my eyes open. Even on the way to school, I couldn’t wait to finally get back to bed at home so I could sleep soundly for two, sometimes three hours. Maybe you felt the same way. This daytime sleepiness marked a year or two of my adolescence and didn’t exactly lead to great school spirit. Unfortunately, daytime sleepiness leads to poor concentration. A nice vicious circle, because good grades can only be achieved with an immense will and a lot of inner motivation. Not exactly the outstanding characteristics of tired teenagers.

2. Learning by sleeping enough – learning little by sleeping too little

How much you sleep directly affects how much knowledge you can remember. Of course, this also applies to your child. But what if your child sleeps 2 hours too little every school day? Vera Birkenbihl explains why in this short video:


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Optimizing learning through sleep | Vera F. Birkenbihl #short #shorts – YouTube

3. An increased stress level

According to the German medical journal, almost every second student suffers from stress *6. Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating stress because the brain processes experiences and emotions of the day during sleep. Various physiological processes are set in motion that regenerate the body and brain. Stress hormones such as cortisol, which can increase during the day, are reduced during sleep. And the nervous system is also affected by your sleep. The autonomic nervous system, especially the parasympathetic nervous system, is responsible for the body’s relaxation response and can reduce stress-induced reactions such as anxiety, nervousness, irritability or concentration problems. This helps children and adolescents in particular to process the stressors of the day and restore emotional balance.

4. Emotional malaise

I once read somewhere, “Puberty is like mental illness.” Pithy, sure. But who doesn’t know them? Those monsters hiding inside your child. One moment cute as a button and the next – seemingly without cause – a real puke. What if school could help to alleviate this condition? Heaven on earth for many harried parents.

It’s simple: sleep is critical to your child’s ability to regulate their emotions. Starting school too early leads to sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation can lead to increased irritability and emotional outbursts. When your child gets enough sleep, they are better able to process emotions and respond appropriately. Also, lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of mental health problems in children, affecting 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide. These include anxiety, depression and mood disorders. Adequate sleep, on the other hand, promotes positive mood and overall mental well-being.

Being well rested also increases your child’s social skills. They are able to respond more empathetically and understandingly to other people, which improves their social relationships and interactions.


Getting up early and starting school in the morning can have lasting effects on the well-being and performance of children and adolescents. Scientists have studied this issue extensively and found that sleep has a critical impact on stress reduction and children’s emotional well-being. Here are the main points again:

Children’s and adolescents’ need for sleep: A child’s need for sleep changes over the course of their development. While elementary school children still need about ten to twelve hours of sleep, the need for sleep increases again on average for adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18. These changes are often overlooked, and adolescents are forced to struggle out of bed early in the morning when they actually need more sleep.

Sleep phase shift: during puberty, adolescents experience a shift in their biological clock. Their bodies produce the sleep hormone melatonin later in the evening, making it difficult to go to bed early. The sleep phase shift causes adolescents to be in their most important sleep phase during the morning hours when school starts. This leads to a type of “social jet lag” and irregular sleep patterns.

The consequences of insufficient sleep in teens: Insufficient sleep in teens can lead to daytime sleepiness, lack of concentration, poorer learning and increased stress levels. Teens are prone to emotional outbursts, irritability, and social difficulties when they don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is also associated with an increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Emotional well-being and social skills: well-rested children are better able to regulate their emotions and respond appropriately to stressors. They are able to respond more empathetically and understandingly to others, which improves their social relationships and interactions.

Overall, research shows that starting school too early, which does not match adolescents’ changing sleep needs, can have significant negative effects on their physical and mental health. Therefore, it is important to design school schedules and start times to meet children’s and adolescents’ sleep needs and biological clocks in order to promote their health and performance.

And that’s exactly what we take into consideration at UNBRICKED. Our school day starts at 9:30am for each class (UTC +1 in winter/ UTC +2 in summer). Your child can sit with cereal and cocoa in their pajama bottoms with unbrushed teeth if that’s what they want. The only important thing for learning success is that they are awake and alert. And don’t worry – your child won’t go to pieces because of it. By the end of puberty at the latest, they will want to present themselves to the world all by themselves, showered, coiffed, and well-dressed 😉 .

*1 Strauch I, Meier B 1988. Sleep need in adolescents: a longitudinal approach. Sleep 11: 378– 386.

*2 Wittmann M, Dinich J, Merrow M, Roenneberg T 2006. Social jetlag: misalignment of biological and social time. Chronobiology International 23: 497–509.

*3 Taillard J, Philip P, Bioulac B 1999. Morningness/eveningness and the need for sleep. Journal of Sleep Research 8: 291–295.

*4 Bearpark H, Michie P 1987. Changes in morningness-eveningness scores during adolescence and their relationship to sleep/wake disturbances. Chronobiologia 14: 151

*5 Dahl RE, Lewin DS 2002. Pathways to aldolescent health: sleep regulation and behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health 31: 175–184.

*6 Fast jeder zweite Schüler leidet unter Stress ( 

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