Catching Enough Z’s: Students transition from their summer sleep schedule back to school

September 9, 2019 — by Kaasha Minocha

Students share their experiences about sleeping patterns and how they have coped with returning back to school.

Students hear the alarm ringing on their phones on the first day of school and painfully turn it off while attempting to get out of bed.

During the summer, sleeping at 2 or 3 a.m. and waking up at noon is a regular routine for many. But when going back to school, waking up can be one of the most challenging parts of a teen’s day. 

For sophomore Shriya Shrinivasan, who stays up late in the summer binge-watching Netflix and wakes up at 10 a.m. the next morning, returning to school has been a shock to her system. 

“I definitely feel sleep deprived going back to school and occasionally use coffee to help get me through the day,” Shrinivasan said. 

Another student who struggles waking up in the morning when returning back to school is senior Armina Mayya. Mayya had an internship during the summer and a consistent sleep schedule. 

Though she was busy all summer, she found time not only to get all her work done, but also relax and decompress, which she liked as she felt like she could balance everything. Returning to school immediately increased the pressure and stress on her because she had to do work for school, college applications, sports and other time-draining activities. 

Transitioning back to school, Mayya finds herself turning off her alarm off more often to catch just a little more sleep. 

“Oftentimes, I can’t really catch my breath because of everything going on,” Mayya said.

During the school year, Mayya stays up past midnight but wakes up at around 7:15 a.m., struggling to clock in sufficient hours of rest. As the year progresses, she thinks she becomes more used to this sleep-deprived schedule.

According to the National Sleeping Foundation, simple tips that can help students have an easier time transitioning from their sleep schedule in the summer back to a healthy one for school include scaling one’s bedtime back gradually, avoiding caffeine within six hours of sleeping, not eating big meals before bedtime and exercising regularly. 

Using caffeine can temporarily make people feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production which is the opposite of what individuals need when winding down to sleep. 

Eating before bedtime can also have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep. According to the results of a new study written about in the Huffington Post, the timing of food consumption can have a significant effect on sleep patterns and eating large meals closer to one’s bedtime may result in disruptions to healthy sleep patterns.

Lowering the thermostat may help students fall asleep quicker, as they tend to do so when their body temperature lowers. 

Additionally, the brain craves stimulation, and it can be hard to turn that desire off at night. As a result, to still experience a relaxed sleep, a white noise machine can be used to still provide stimulation in a gentle and calming way by playing peaceful sounds while also masking any bothersome noises from outside the bedroom. 

It is possible to play around with different white noise options such as thunderstorm, campfire, rain forest, and more, but if investing in a machine is too complicated or expensive, there are several free apps such as Atmosphere and myNoise that can provide similar noises as well. 

Huffington Post also recommends that when waking up, exposure to bright light will help shake feelings of grogginess. Making the bed as soon as one wakes up can additionally benefit students as they start their day with a sense of accomplishment, and it is much harder to crawl back into bed after it’s made. 

Finally, one of the easiest tricks to help solve the morning “alarm clock problem” is to put the alarm farther away from their bed, which forces teens to wake up and get out of bed in order to turn off the buzzing or ringing. 

Changing one’s sleep schedule isn’t always easy, but with consistency and following some of the easiest tricks, it can be done to ensure for a well-rested good night of sleep.