With school starting at 7:30 a.m., extracurricular activities stretching past 8 p.m., and jobs and volunteer work to squeeze in as well, sleep often falls to the bottom of the adolescent priority list. One Connecticut high school teacher, who decided his students needed some down time, formed an after school Power Napping Club to give teens 20 minutes a week to just sit back and relax. Included: Students talk about the benefits of power napping.
Over-packed schedules and 12-hour days are draining already sleep-deprived teenagers. In high schools where most students go on to college, the pressure to excel inside and outside of the classroom leaves students with little time to relax.
Anton Anderson, an English teacher at Greenwich (Connecticut) High School, decided to do something to help the waves of weary teens he was seeing every day. In 1998, he founded the Power Napping Club, which allows students to nap for about 20 minutes at the end of the day before going on to extracurricular activities. It's motto: Veni, Vidi, Dormici (Latin for I came, I saw, I slept.)
"It is not a substitute for getting eight to ten hours of nightly sleep, but it does recharge the batteries," Anderson told Education World. "It was clear to me -- after 36 years as a teacher -- that the children are oversubscribed. The pressures on kids are unprecedented in the history of adolescence. We are expecting them to function like executives of hot companies when they are 15 or 16. They have courses, athletics, community service, and jobs. I saw a lot of exhausted kids."
|Students at Greenwich (Connecticut) High School recharge during a meeting of the Power Napping Club.|
SLEEPLESS IN SUBURBIA
During a Power Napping Club meeting in early May, six students gathered in a classroom to relax as soothing music played. Some laid down on the floor, others kicked off their shoes, or slumped down in their seats.
"Napping club just gives me time to stop," Tom, 17, a junior, said after his snooze. "People ask me why I don't sleep at home. Here, we have a routine."
Given their busy schedules, Tom and two other boys said a later school start than the current 7:30 a.m. would be a dream come true.
"I've been waking up later and later since freshman year," Brian, 18, a senior said. "I usually wake up at 6:30 a.m., or 5:40 a.m. if have band practice at 6:30 in the morning. I usually go to bed between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m.; I always have homework to finish late."
"I think we should switch, and let the elementary kids start earlier," Jack, 16, a junior said. "I teach third grade Sunday school, and the little kids are always up around 6 a.m. I'm in bed between 10 and 11, but don't fall asleep until midnight."
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Tom added that he has the same problem, not falling asleep for an hour or two after going to bed. He still gets up at 6 a.m. most days, except during water polo season. Then he attends daily practices from 7:45 p.m.9:45 p.m., and three days a week is back at school at 6:15 a.m. for weight training. "It would be great if school started later," he said.
Kelly, a senior club member, said she is not certain if starting school later would make a big difference. But she knows that on the days she gets up at 5:30 a.m. for swimming practice before school she is drowsy by second or third period. "I'm fine for about an hour after practice."
Power Napping Club co-president Jenna, a senior, said while she is all for more sleep, she thinks delaying school's starting time would just push back her drowsy spell to later in the day.
"I usually get up at 6 a.m., unless I have homework to finish. Then I get up 4:45 a.m. or 5 a.m.," Jenna said. "I go to bed about 11 p.m. Getting up is the hard part; it would be a lot nicer if school started later. But I'm involved in sports, and sometimes don't get home until 8 p.m. now. If school started later, it would be hard to find time to do everything. And I'm just as tired in the afternoon as in the morning."
Enter the appeal of power napping. "Obviously, it's no substitute for sleep, but I definitely feel more relaxed afterward," Jenna added.