How Haverford can counter sleep deprivation

Owen Yu ’23

On weekdays, my after-school routine consists of homework, extracurriculars, and individual interests that usually results in a 1:30 a.m. bedtime. With a 6:45 a.m. wake-up time and a 45-60 minute long drive to school, I often walk into Wilson Hall with heavy eyes, a dazed look, and a half-functioning brain. Late nights have become normalized in my daily routine—and I’m not alone.

Haverford’s relationship with sleep is already well documented within the community. In the November issue of The Index, Fifth Former Ethan Chan asked,  “Do students get enough sleep?” The article covers multiple perspectives, some of which point to heaps of schoolwork or time management issues as the main culprit for sleep loss. Consensus emerged amongst the students interviewed: Haverford students lack sleep and something must be done to fix that.

It is well understood that teenagers need an adequate amount of sleep to maintain their health. The CDC, citing The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, states that “teenagers aged 13–18 years should sleep 8–10 hours per 24 hours.” When these hours aren’t met, the CDC acknowledges that health issues may arise: “Children and adolescents who do not get enough sleep have a higher risk for many health and behavior problems.” Fortunately, at least in my experience, Haverford teachers are fairly observant when it comes to noticing if a student is acting differently. On days where I’m especially drowsy, I find myself bombarded by comments from teachers telling me that I should “sleep earlier” or “get some rest.” Still, while these remarks are greatly appreciated, they do little to help me gain more hours of sleep—in the end, I will likely still be awake at midnight finishing up my homework and studies.

While I, like many students, would love to receive less homework, the possibility of that happening seems slim

Ultimately, Haverford lacks ways to support students combating sleep loss. The CDC recommends maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and limiting technology use at night to help teenagers get more sleep. But with varying amounts of online homework per day, these recommendations are both unreasonable and unachievable. For Haverford to support sleep deprived students, new initiatives must be implemented.

Most students would argue that unmanageable amounts of schoolwork are the primary cause of students’ lack of sleep. In fact, in Chan’s article on sleep deprivation, Fifth Former Roch Parayre suggested increasing the amount of information learned in class in exchange for less homework, saying, “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.”

While I, like many students, would love to receive less homework, the possibility of that happening seems slim. Especially with the new quarter schedule, teachers need to follow a strict schedule to ensure all of the material for the year gets covered. Decreasing the amount of outside schoolwork would only make teachers’ jobs harder, which, obviously, does not seem like something Haverford would implement.

Fifth Former Connor Pinsk lounges in the big room – Joey Kauffman ’23

So, how can Haverford help students get more sleep?

If reducing the amount of homework can’t happen, then I suggest addressing Haverford’s cutthroat academic culture. Haverford provides students with an array of distinct opportunities that many students believe they have to take advantage of. This creates a competitive and stressful environment where many students feel like they both can and have to do everything. But with outside commitments and responsibilities, students are pushed to their limits while they attempt to experience all that’s available to them, inevitably leading to sleepless nights.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Haverford limits what students can do. Instead, the administration should be aware of the school’s academic environment and work to help students navigate it. More talk about time management should be the first priority. If students are already attempting to achieve all of their ambitions, then the school needs to ensure we have the proper knowledge to do so while also leaving enough time for sleep. Furthermore, students need more conversation on the acceptability of not doing everything. As ambitious teenagers, we often overlook our sleep as we work towards our goals. But we can’t keep our foot on the gas forever, so we need to know that it is ok to rest.

In the end, we’re all trying our best to complete the school year strong while also experiencing as much as we can—but we can’t do it all. With our sleep dwindling and workload increasing, we need Haverford’s support, and we need it fast.