Do students get enough sleep?

Matthew Collier ’23 taking a nap- Ethan Chan ’23

End of the school day at 3:15 p.m. Sports at 4:00 p.m. Extracurriculars at 6:30 p.m. Home by 8:00 p.m. Homework at 9:00 p.m. Sleep? For many high school students, their teenage years are crucial across many aspects, whether it be academics, athletics, extracurriculars, and health. While some of these factors may thrive, one is too often compromised: sleep.

“I usually get 4.5 hours of sleep during the weekdays,” Fifth Former Roch Parayre said. The third year in high school across the country is often regarded as one of the most challenging years for a student, arguably the most difficult and busy.

“I am very busy with homework, extra-curriculars, college prep, etc., and because I often feel that I am occupied the entire day, the night is the only time when I have freedom and alone time. The phenomenon of ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ certainly pertains to me,” Parayre said.

Responsibilities impact the amount of sleep one receives, but new circumstances can exacerbate sleep deprivation among students.

“Freshman to sophomore year, I had a pretty healthy sleep schedule. I’d sleep at roughly 10-11 p.m. and wake up around 7 a.m., giving me around eight hours of sleep,” Sixth Former Bowen Deng said. “After the COVID-19 lockdown, my sleep schedule really got messed up; I’d go to bed around 1 or 2 a.m. and wake up much later due to online school. Even after we went back in person, I kept that schedule and just dealt with getting less sleep.” 

According to Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, it usually takes 66 days to form a new habit. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been over 200 days of school, further establishing the habit and sleep schedule that many students such as Deng now cope with.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students like Deng on the notion of sleep, the juggle between mental health and other priorities is also clear.

“School life is definitely very demanding, and, even with this new schedule, I feel like I still don’t have enough free time in order to balance my academic and extracurricular life,” Sixth Former Quinn Luong said. For so long, I’ve just prioritized them instead of taking care of my well-being and mental health.”

“I get frustrated at myself for sleeping and not finishing my homework, which results in me having to finish it the next morning or before class.”

Quinn Luong ’22

This compromise over these two crucial facets comes with its burdens.

“I get frustrated at myself for sleeping and not finishing my homework, which results in me having to finish it the next morning or before class. I find it really unfortunate that I have to be harsh on myself when my body is just telling me that I’m tired and I need rest,” Luong said. 

The collective struggle to live up to the standards of being an ideal student, athlete, and person at the expense of mental health and sleep is nothing new to millions of high schoolers. Change must be made.

“I think that Haverford should try to foster an academic workspace in which we learn the adequate amount of information in class and can explore our own interests outside of school without the burden of more schoolwork.”

Roch Parayre ’23

“I think that Haverford should try to foster an academic workspace in which we learn the adequate amount of information in class and can explore our own interests outside of school without the burden of more schoolwork,” Parayre said. 

The new addition of the free block benefits students, but the re-allocation of time spent in class could potentially be an improvement. Another solution that other nations have used is to eliminate homework entirely.

“I think we should look up to Finland and ban homework. You cannot expect us [students] to come to school and essentially work for eight hours excluding extracurriculars and then go home and study for hours. On top of this, how are we expected to spend time with family, exercise, and explore hobbies?” Parayre said. 

A student falls asleep in a chair on ‘The Street’ in the upper school- David Bunn ’17

While this concept of no homework can be deemed quite radical when compared to the demanding American education system, this actually allows for more leeway for students to perform better in virtually all other aspects, ultimately affecting performance in the classroom.

“If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect,” Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal, said to the Smithsonian Magazine.

Maximizing efficiency is another solution that can lead to healthier amounts of sleep.

“They [students] should try to finish all their homework quickly and efficiently so that they will have more time for their extracurriculars, and more time to sleep,” Third Former Nicholas Lu said.

Similarly, how students manage their time is also important.

“It’s all about time management and planning. Stay focused when you’re doing your work and make sure to balance working with breaks.”

Bowen Deng ’22

“It’s all about time management and planning. Stay focused when you’re doing your work and make sure to balance working with breaks,” Deng said.

Even more so, it is important for the school and teachers to have a larger role in dealing with these issues of sleep and mental health.

“I think that schools should try to check in with students to see how much sleep they are getting, and help students optimize their schedule so that they can finish their homework and do their extracurriculars,” Lu said.

Taking notice is often the first step, and there are a number of ways the school can do this.

“This is more on [Student Body President] Mitav [Nayak’s] side, but I definitely think surveys by form asking about sleep habits/hours of sleep per night would help; if 40% of respondents in a form say they get five hours of sleep a night that should definitely be something that’s addressed,” Deng said.

Ultimately, the lack of sleep and its detrimental effects on mental health, well-being, and more is nothing new to the student body. There will never be a perfect balance between sleep and mental health, but if proper actions are taken, students will feel better.