In-person vs home schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic: Differences in sleep, circadian timing, and mood in early adolescence

Julia E. Stone, Andrew J.K. Phillips, Evangelos Chachos, Anthony J. Hand, Sinh Lu, Mary A. Carskadon, Elizabeth B. Klerman, Steven W. Lockley, Joshua F. Wiley, Bei Bei, Shantha M.W. Rajaratnam, for the CLASS Study Team

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17 Citations (Scopus)


During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the world rapidly transitioned from in-person to remote learning, providing an opportunity to examine the impact of in-person vs remote learning on sleep, circadian timing, and mood. We assessed sleep-wake timing using wrist actigraphy and sleep diaries over 1-2 weeks during in-person learning (n = 28) and remote learning (n = 58, where n = 27 were repeat assessments) in adolescents (age M ± SD = 12.79 ± 0.42 years). Circadian timing was measured under a single condition in each individual using salivary melatonin (Dim Light Melatonin Onset; DLMO). Online surveys assessed mood (PROMIS Pediatric Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms) and sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale – Child and Adolescent) in each condition. During remote (vs in-person) learning: (i) on school days, students went to sleep 26 minutes later and woke 49 minutes later, resulting in 22 minutes longer sleep duration (all P <.0001); (ii) DLMO time did not differ significantly between conditions, although participants woke at a later circadian phase (43 minutes, P =.03) during remote learning; and (iii) participants reported significantly lower sleepiness (P =.048) and lower anxiety symptoms (P =.006). Depressive symptoms did not differ between conditions. Changes in mood symptoms were not mediated by sleep. Although remote learning continued to have fixed school start times, removing morning commutes likely enabled adolescents to sleep longer, wake later, and to wake at a later circadian phase. These results indicate that remote learning, or later school start times, may extend sleep and improve some subjective symptoms in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12757
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • adolescence
  • circadian rhythms
  • COVID-19
  • melatonin
  • remote learning
  • school start times
  • sleep

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