Walking down the halls in high school, it was too easy to spot the baggy eyes. Too often I hear the details of all-nighters and lost sleep. Teenagers, concerningly, are no strangers to sleep deprivation. In a 2006 study done by the National Sleep Foundation, researchers found that nearly 87% of students were getting less than eight hours of sleep. And despite the study being over a decade ago, the number does not seem so far off now. The sleep epidemic has not come out of nowhere, and sleep debt adds to the many obligations students have. Moreover, its effects are dreadful. Lack of sleep does not only lead to unsatisfactory grades (counteracting the reason many students stay up late, it also dramatically affects mental health.
The timing of school does not help much either. Though this may not be the case for all schools, but at my school, the older we got, the earlier we had to wake up. More notably, the older we got, the more work and extracurriculars were notched into our schedules. It makes sense that teens would sleep later. There is even a biological tendency at play as teens are much more likely to sleep later than younger children.
The clear answer is to push back school start times, which has proved successful. In 2016, schools in Seattle moved their start time 55 minutes later. This small change increased students’ average sleep time in Seattle and was correlated with a 4.5 percent increase in grades. Other cities have seen this effect in schools as well. But there may be another way to promote sleep in teens. A way that makes us go back to our younger years, to mats on floors, and to a time where we didn’t want to rest our eyes: nap time.
Many of us remember nap time when we were younger. Naptime was implemented to ensure our toddler selves did not get too out of control. It may also help our teenage selves combat the rising prevalence of sleep deprivation. In 2018, researchers at the University of Delaware and at the University of Pennsylvania studied the effects of midday napping on students in Jintan, China, where midday napping was a habitual and cultural practice. Their study illuminated many ways in which napping between 12 –
It is also important to note that the “nap time” was built into the school day and was between 30 – 60 minutes long. Though it seems a large portion of time, building nap time into the day creates results worth the time commitment. And building it into the schedule, as was done in many preschools, forces even the busiest bodies to rest their brains.
The sleep epidemic in teens is one that has remained in the background of society for many years. It is concerning how going to bed in the wee hours of the morning symbolizes a hardworking, diligent student as opposed to a student who has been robbed of crucial hours of sleep. If we do a bit of research, we can find solutions to this problem. But only if school employees, especially administrators, understand the gravity of the situation and act upon it. Only then will we see changes such as pushing back school times and built in nap times and, consequently, a decrease in sleep deprivation.