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I am a single dad who has custody of my 11 year old daughter during the school year. During the summer, however, she stays with her mother in another town. I have become concerned about the lack of bedtime regimen that she has while she's there - she's basically allowed to stay up as late as she wants (I regularly see Instagram posts etc. at 2 AM+ in the morning) on the grounds that "it's summer; she can sleep as late as she wants in the morning."

So - if she goes to bed at 4 AM and sleeps till noon, is there research on whether that's basically as good as 10 PM to 6 AM or whatever? Is an equivalent amount of sleep fine for a kid even if it's not at night? I'm not sure how much of my negative reaction is old-school "early to bed, early to rise" inherited-wisdom stuff vs there being an actual reason that's not good for her. What are the documented effects/pitfalls of "bedtime anytime?"

I have other concerns - a lot of that time is unsupervised, since her mom has young ones they all go to bed early, and a lot of that time is using the Internet... But purely sleep-wise, any thoughts?

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3 Answers

Assume your daughter needs 8 hours of sleep (it might be 9 or 10, but whatever.) Can she get that from 2am to 10am (or 3am to noon), and if so, is that ok?

First, she probably can't. The sun will come up (especially in the summer) and raise the light levels in her room, which will cause her to sleep less deeply. Other people in the house, who didn't stay up so late, will wake, have showers, make breakfast and generally contribute to background noise. And she may, summer or no, have obligations and plans (a day at the pool with a friend) that require her to be up before she's had her required amount of sleep.

Second, is it ok? I would say no. Unsupervised access to TV and the internet is, regardless of the time of day, not a good thing for an 11 year old. It is potentially more dangerous late at night, though with time zones late in one place is not late on the internet. Definitely the TV channels show different fare at 1am than at 1pm.

It's possible her mother is just "picking her battles" and giving your daughter a freedom the mother never had. I don't think it's very safe, but it may not feel worth the fight. One possible approach is to turn off the internet (put the wifi in the mother's room) at say 10 or 11 pm (heck, start at 1am and walk back an hour a week till you get to 10) each night. Now you don't have to sleep - feel free to read, for example - but no TV or internet till the morning. For safety reasons. This might result in a bored preteen going to sleep when the internet goes off. Or, it might result in a thermonuclear explosion, which will mean there is probably something inappropriate happening in the middle of the night. From my experience, anyway.

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Good idea, I talked to her mom today about a 10 PM "Internet curfew" - if she wants to stay up reading or doing something useful, then it's less troubling (and less likely). –  mxyzplk Jul 30 '13 at 1:17
    
AND... it's a known fact that a screen of any type will go tricking your brain into believing the sun is still up. You can stare at a monitor playing The Facebooks without getting sleepy waay longer than you could sit and read a book by lamp light (not overhead light) or knit a sweater or chisel. with a 10pm internet curfew, she'll drop off much more readily. She'll say it's boredom, when the reality is that it just allows her brain to go "oh hey look. the sun is like... GONE." –  monsto Jul 30 '13 at 2:43
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left to our own devices, we all have our own internal clocks that, for better or worse, rarely align with a 24 hour/9-5 modern human schedule. As far as I know, all parents throughout time think their kids stay up too late and sleep in too long. :)

Alas, kids--namely teenagers--have science backing them up.

So it's not so much when they sleep, but that they get enough of it. Unfortunately, kids live in the same world as we all do and the 'waking hours' of society don't always correspond with our personal sleep cycles, so the concern is getting into the habit of staying up very late, only to have to then get up very early when the school bus comes--which ultimately will cut into the length of their sleeping.

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It's one thing for a 16 year old to be staying up late and posting Instagram photos at 04:00, but does this also apply to the OP's 11 year old? –  smillig Jul 29 '13 at 20:52
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@smillig that's entirely up to the OP –  DA01 Jul 29 '13 at 21:21
    
@DA01 I totally agree, a different topic altogether also –  user4784 Aug 2 '13 at 12:53
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I have a condition called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, which basically means my body can't go to sleep until the early hours of the morning, no matter how tired I am. When I first learned about it, I was interested to learn that it is fairly common in adolescents, but usually goes away by adulthood.

According to my research, by far the healthiest way to deal with my condition is to sleep when my body wants to sleep. Unfortunately, social commitments preclude a 1-9pm work shift, so I do various treatments that are designed to help shift my clock back, and minimize the damage from going against my body's natural rhythm.

Of course, that's presuming your daughter is among the 7% or so of adolescents with DSPD. If she's using stimulants like caffeine or otherwise forcing herself to stay awake against her body's natural rhythm, that's unhealthy. Without actually observing her, there's no way to tell.

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I'm pretty sure there's no "disorder" at work, as she's busy chatting with her various other preteen friends who are also up goofing around at that time... Unless it's catching. :-P –  mxyzplk Jul 29 '13 at 23:23
    
That would explain much about myself and one of my children. I have also found brighter children tend to stay up later –  user4784 Aug 2 '13 at 12:55
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