Teenagers need as much sleep as toddlers. According to sleep guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it is recommended that toddlers get 11 to 12 hours of sleep in a day, and teenagers get 9 to 10. There is a trend in the statistics of sleep requirements that, as we grow older, we generally need less hours of sleep to function. This is due to the fact that growth hormones are released when we snooze, which we need less as we age. In addition, we do our most critical brain and physical development during our youth.
Unfortunately, teens are biologically wired to be tired during the day and active during the night. Puberty affects our circadian rhythm, the natural clock found within us, and we can no longer drift off to sleep at childhood bedtimes. Our drowsiness is delayed to later in the night, which is not ideal for teens who have to wake up early to get to school on time. Coupled with the struggle to feel sleepy at an earlier time, some teens have trouble sleeping even when they are lying in bed. People who can fall asleep right away are lucky because sleep disorder is a chronic problem for Americans; teenagers are no exception. Insomnia proliferates in a stressful environment. We get caught into the vicious cycle of not getting enough sleep and turning to caffeine, which only aggravates insomnia into artificial energy that prevents us from going to sleep again. The responsibilities of a teenager, like homework, studying, chores, and socializing build up, and they are usually prioritized over sleep. Procrastination is a friend in the day and a foe by night.
Not feeling well-rested devastates our performance in school. Feeling tired can leave us in a zombie-like stupor. Lessons that aren’t fully comprehended go to waste and drag a student behind. Pre-schools and kindergartens are ahead of high school education when it comes to realizing that naptime improves active performance.
Technically, a modified form of naptime already exists in our yoga classroom, with the popular shavasana pose in which the yogini rests on the mat in a laying position. It is typically reserved for the last ten minutes in class to wind down. In the city that never sleeps, shavasana is a foreign concept to people who are constantly rushed and on the go. Even though few people manage to drift off to actual sleep in shavasana, its restful effect is still greatly appreciated. “I feel very relaxed and energized after,” said student Sumaiya Ali ‘16. Another student, Natalia Belchikov ‘16, agreed and said, “It’s relief in the middle of the day if you get to lay down when in school you’re always on the move.”
What if an actual, proper naptime existed in high schools? Some people use their lunch period to take a nap. In the nurse room, there is a small bed to lie down on and a curtain divider for privacy. However, it is hard to sleep during lunch because there isn’t enough time. “If I have to finish homework and then print it, the lunch period will already be over,” Mahaut Brooks ‘16 said. There is no freedom to nap in the school’s advisory period either, because it is already devoted to the importance of reading and personal projects. Naptime only seems like a possibility if a free period was integrated into our schedule. When asked about the idea, Natalia Belchikov ‘16 responded, “I think it would be awesome if we could nap. A power nap really revitalizes, and a half hour to an hour would be all we need. I would be willing to be let out of school a little later if our naptime was in the middle of our schedule.”
A power nap is just what some people need, especially when there are many students who get an average of four to five hours of sleep a night. One can argue that students can take a nap on their own time at home. But, that may be an impossible feat, even for a student with great time management skills. “Sometimes I’m up until one o’clock doing my homework,” said Mahaut Brooks ‘16. “I can take a nap when I get home, but then that means I don’t start my homework until five, and the homework builds up.” In the end, getting a good night’s sleep is the most important thing.