It should come as no surprise to read that today’s students are extremely sleep deprived. From primary schools to universities, students all ages suffer from chronic sleep shortages. All of that lost sleep comes at price much more costly than bad moods or grogginess, however. Sleep deprivation – even just an hour or two deficit – can have significant effects on students’ cognitive ability and academic performance. Unfortunately, some of this sleep deprivation is unavoidable today due to early school start times and the temptations modern lifestyle. Luckily, a new study published by a sleep researcher at the University of Delaware has found that there is an easy way to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation in students: mid-day naps. Is it time to institute a nationwide nap hour in schools?

Many students certainly wish so, that’s for sure. Yet data suggest that these naps could actually be beneficial in terms of academic performance. Dr. Xiaopeng Ji researches sleep health in community-based populations and the role of habitual daytime napping in child and adolescent populations. In this most recent study, Ji examined the effect of mid-day naps on students at several schools in Jintan, a city in Jiangsu Province, China. Ji found that many adolescents experience a “circadian dip” between 12 and 2 p.m. During this period, students are more likely to fall asleep and have difficulties concentrating.

However, Ji’s data show that students in schools with mid-day naps tend to avoid this circadian dip and function at peak performance for the rest of the day. Ji explains that in some countries like China, mid-day naps are a part of life for many students and even adults in the workplace, unlike America where we tend to promote sleeping only at night:

Daytime napping is quite controversial in the United States. In Western culture, the monophasic sleep pattern is considered a marker of brain maturation. In China, time for napping is built into the post-lunch schedule for many adults in work settings and students at schools.

While this study was observational and does not have a concrete statistical basis, Ji hopes that these preliminary findings could lead to a wider conversation about the importance of mid-day naps in schools and the workplace here in the U.S. Will mandatory nap time ever take hold in the U.S.?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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