by Jessica Zhang, Staff Writer, October 2020
Last year, when tests and homework kept me awake past 12 a.m. each night, I remember almost falling asleep in the quiet room several times the next day. With too many vocab words to memorize, essays to correct, and tests to study for, there were never more than seven hours in a day to devote to sleep. When my daily alarm rang at 6:30 a.m., I had to drag myself out of bed, despite feeling like I could sleep for another three years.
The desire for more sleep seems to be a widespread trend in the Nobles community. Although 68%* of students get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, the other 32% consistently get less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8-10 hours of sleep each night to maintain their health (physical and emotional) and academic performance. School Nurse Lisa O’Connor shared that there are numerous advantages to getting sufficient amounts of sleep, especially in a high school setting. “Benefits are everything from attention, focus, memory, to energy level… particularly for students, so much has to do with cognitive awareness,” O’Connor said.
But most of us have heard the “get-more-sleep” lecture before from parents or doctors. And yet, over 40% of the survey’s respondents reported feeling tired during school days. One possible solution to the common Nobles sleep deprivation may be to change the school day start time.
With the recent transition to a hybrid school model, Nobles implemented a later start time, which seems to have benefitted many students. Over 60% of the survey’s respondents said that they are now getting more sleep than in past school years, and over 80% expressed the desire to keep the later start time post-COVID.
One example of a student whose sleep schedule has improved is Arnav Harve (Class III), who now gets between 30 minutes to an hour more sleep per night. “My sleep schedule is definitely better,” Harve said. He elaborated, “The more I got used to waking up at that time, the more I grew to like it. I don’t think there are any drawbacks to starting school later.”
But not all students have experienced benefits from the current schedule. Zoe Umeh (Class II) is currently getting less sleep than she used to, averaging about 5 or 6 hours per night. In addition to Umeh’s new upperclassman workload and after-school volunteer work, she also feels that her sleep schedule has been disrupted by the hybrid school model. “My schedule was definitely more structured before,” said Umeh. She continued, “Regardless of me not getting enough sleep, I still stick by [the later start time].”
O’Connor also supports the later start time, recognizing that the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-forced online school affect the schedule structures of students like Umeh and Harve. In unusual times like these, she believes it is extra important for students to have more sleep time in the mornings.
“I will 100 percent always be in favor of a late start because I do think that not having to wake up so early in the morning has huge benefits,” O’Connor said. She clarified, “I hope that students will not take [a late start] as an opportunity to stay up later at night— that they will recognize that as a gift of time.”
Even though many students seem to be getting a different amount of sleep than before, there are also some students whose sleep schedules have not changed. Sydney Jones (Class I) got at least eight hours of sleep in past years and, while that amount has not changed, she still supports the later start time. “Last year, I’d have days where I woke up exhausted, but now, pretty much every day, I’m ready to go,” Jones said.
Caroline Jennings’s (Class IV) hours are not greatly affected either, but like Jones, she supports the later start time. Though she was initially concerned about school ending later, she has discovered finishing times are not a concern. “I don’t think there are any drawbacks because we get out at the same time,” Jennings said. She also recognized that a later start time may be beneficial for students with longer commutes.
The extent to which the late start affects students varies from case to case. Regardless of the differences, most people seemed to agree that a late start is beneficial. Everyone who was interviewed also agreed that a start time between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. is ideal. If there is anything to preserve from the 2020 school experience, perhaps it is the continuation of the late start to ensure that students may reap the full, restorative benefits of sleep.