Our son, David, is 13. Until fourth grade he was a quiet kid who sat in the corner and read books. During the fourth grade a slow deterioration began in his school behavior. A psychologist told us he was understimulated and getting bored.
We tried to help him hang in there a few more years. There is no gifted kids program in our area. We finally decided to partially homeschool him and have been doing so for the past two months.
Now that he spends more time studying on his own than in school, he has become a much happier boy, and, ironically, his social relationships have actually improved. However, a curious pattern in his sleep has developed. Almost immediately after we began the homeschooling, he switched to working until 4 or 5 A.M. and sleeping till at least noon. He has created three websites and works on them in the middle of the night, chats with cyberfriends in Sweden and Texas, listens to music and sends out a bi-weekly newsletter, in addition to his academic work, which is sometimes erratic, though he reads voraciously.
For many weeks he was perfectly happy like this but, aside from the fact that it wreaked havoc with some of our attempts to organize learning schedules that involve other people (myself, my husband, study partners), we had to face the fact that he wasn't "living in the real world." He's a very creative and original kid as it is, and a soul after my own heart, but we feel he has to be able to function like others do.
I have also heard that there is a connection between ADD and sleep disorders, but when David was tested two years ago, he was not diagnosed with ADD.
Can you direct me to anything you or anyone else has written on this topic? Have you discovered, in your research, that gifted, creative kids sometimes have unusual biological clocks? And if so, how should we proceed? I should mention that the problem is not that he sleeps less hours, but that his hours are very strange.
Night Owl's Mom
Guest Expert: Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.
I am copying this e-mail to Stephanie Tolan, who has written an article in our Advanced Development Journal on sleep patterns in profoundly gifted children. I think you would be very interested in Stephanie's observations.
We have a support group in Denver, called POGO, for parents of children in the 160+ IQ range. At this point in time, many POGO families homeschool their children, and I know of at least two families that homeschool their children at odd hours. One family works from 6:00 P.M. until midnight. Another family can be up most of the night, and I presume that they sleep late in the morning.
Stephanie brought to my attention the fact that her son and his friend slept better when they had been sufficiently stimulated during the day, (as if they needed to do a certain amount of mental work before they could sleep). As these boys are now adults, she has been following their sleep patterns, and finding that, indeed, they have unusual patterns, even in adult life. When highly stimulated and engaged in projects, they can go for days on end with very little sleep, and then crash and sleep for most of a week-end.
After talking with Stephanie, I asked the POGO group about their experiences with sleep patterns in their children. The 12 families represented the night we discussed this ALL said that their children were difficult to get to sleep at night (they were afraid they would "miss" something) and they were just as difficult to get up in the morning. One of the parents asked the others how much sleep they needed in comparison with their children, and it turned out that the parents and children (regardless of the children's ages) all needed about the same amount of sleep. It just SEEMED like the children needed less sleep than the parents because the parents were so exhausted by the battle of getting them to bed at night, and the battle of getting them up in the morning!
As for your situation, it seems to me that it should be negotiated. If you are a night owl, and you do your best thinking at night, then you and your son should feel free to homeschool at night, despite the fact that this is counter to the rest of the world's time schedule. However, if your son is a night owl, and you have responsibilities with the rest of your family during regular daylight hours, then he has to adjust to your schedule and your needs. Otherwise you will burn out or become ill. You may strike up a compromise in which you homeschool him during the day, perhaps late in the day so that he can sleep late, and he can be allowed to stay up late and sleep in late ONLY IF THIS DOES NOT INTERFERE IN ANY WAY WITH THE LIVES OF THE REST OF YOUR FAMILY. He cannot be given the message that he is more important than everyone else. He must learn that you have needs, too. However, I do not feel that you must necessarily get him to conform to others' biological clocks. He has his own unusual rhythm.
Hope this helps.
Linda Kreger Silverman PhD