HM Online alters students’ sleep schedules


Marina Kazarian and Lucas Glickman

On Tuesday night, Devin Hirsch (11) lay in bed, unable to fall asleep after spending hours on a precalculus test that he could only take on his computer due to his lack of a functioning printer. He said the blue light from the screen may have affected his ability to sleep well during the night.
HM Online has drastically changed students’ sleeping habits, and in some cases made them even more irregular than they originally were.
“Once, I just really couldn’t sleep, and I was awake until 5:30,” Purvi Jonnalagadda (10) said. “I had a class in three hours, so I wasn’t sure if I should sleep or just stay awake.” Jonnalagadda said that she has a hard time trying to fall asleep early because she is not tired enough.
At the same time, several students have gotten an increased amount of sleep from the new system. As HM online continues, two broad student trends have emerged; many have found that a routine schedule has helped with getting accustomed to HM online, while others enjoy the extra time to sleep in before class.
Brigette Kon (12) said that her wake-up time varies depending on her first class. “A and B period I have calc and then history, so if I have either of those classes, I’ll wake up for those,” she said. “If not, I’ll wake up a little before 10, so that I can have a break Zoom with my friends.”
The switch to waking up later was instantaneous for Kon. Before HM online, she would wake up at around 7 AM, and she said that as soon as she stopped having to physically attend school, she started waking up at 8 AM.
Similar to Kon, Hirsch said that he gets up as late as possible, depending on his first class. Thomas Grant (10) said he also gets up at various times in accordance with his classes.
Kon said she usually falls asleep between 11 PM and 1 AM, depending on the amount of work she has. This pattern resembles the one she previously had during the year.
Though he has more free-time and fewer classes during the day, Hirsch said his work now takes a longer amount of time to complete. He said that he puts care and effort into his schoolwork, and now that he typically has to do classwork and homework on his own, he spends more time on his assignments. It takes him more than 45 minutes to learn the class material by himself without a teacher explaining the concepts, he said.
Jonnalagadda said she “definitely” has more work now and stays up to do it. This issue primarily surfaces when she has a later class, which pushes back her schedule. Typically, she gets between five and eight hours of sleep.
Hirsch falls asleep between 1 and 3 AM, depending on homework and whether he has to wake up early the next day. This time frame is also not unusual for Hirsch, as he would typically fall asleep around this time earlier in the school year. He said the earliest he has fallen asleep all year is between 12 and 12:30 AM, and he would typically wake up at around 7 AM.
However, Hirsch said that during the school year, he would sometimes “pass out” after school due to a lack of sleep, sleep until around 9 PM, and then wake up to finish his work during the night. Now, Hirsch gets more sleep and wakes up later.
Due to his increased amount of sleep, Michael Shaari (10) said that he has become more productive. He said he is “more optimistic about doing homework, as it is less of a task and more of something to keep [him] occupied.” Steve Yang (9) said he has experienced a psychological effect caused by the increased time allotted to sleeping, as he feels less tired.
For Hirsh, the increased amount of time he has to himself has caused his sleeping schedule to be more chaotic, but less stressful, leading to an overall happier mindset.
Nevertheless, other students require a more structured sleep schedule to resemble a sense of normalcy.
In an email to parents and guardians, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly encouraged families to establish routines with their children and have conversations with them about how they can make the best of this new reality, as students may return to the school on short notice.
“While it’s not looking good right now, a return to school with 24 hours notice will be even more difficult for those in our student body who have chosen to dramatically alter their sleep habits,” Kelly said. “And from what I’m hearing, a great number of our students have done just that! While the shift in one’s sleep habits is understandable given the current restrictions placed on everyone, it’s not healthy.”
Yang said he maintains a schedule with a set time to wake up each morning as have others. The schedule has helped with retaining a sense of time and differentiating the weekdays from weekends. Despite not having a strict day by day schedule, he tries to “get all of [his] school-related work out of the way before 7 or 8 o’clock [at night] and then spends the rest of the night reading and practicing cello,” Yang said.
Sports have also played a role in students’ productivity and sleeping patterns.
Grant said that a daily workout, or even just going outside, “clears [his] mind and helps [him] process lessons [he] learned that day.” Kon also exercises and goes on hour-long runs. “Sometimes I’ll either take a nap before I work out or after I work out, depending on how I’m feeling that day and depending on what time I work out,” she said.
Staying at home and not having to catch a bus has made Kon more comfortable. “Even though I still have class, it feels less urgent,” she said. “Sometimes, I’m like ‘Oh, I can sleep in five more minutes,’ or ‘I can sleep in just a little bit more.’”
To avoid oversleeping, Jonnalagadda said she will try to sleep earlier if she has an early class. “I always set multiple alarms at least half an hour before my class to avoid missing it,” she said.
Another issue with sleeping patterns during online school has been the use of social media.
With everything online, Jonnalagadda said she has been spending more time on her computer overall and is on technology or social media later every night. “I use technology at night for homework, and I’m on social media at night because I don’t always get a chance to check it during the day, or I want to watch something on Netflix to unwind,” she said.
“It’s kind of hard to be efficient with my work, because it’s really tempting to open Netflix and start watching something,” Jonnalagadda said. “I have to force myself to do work, especially since we have a lot more, and it’s more independent.”
Hirsch said the blue light may be affecting his sleep quality, as he has trouble falling asleep. Since the switch to online learning, Shaari has started using blue-light glasses and said they have significantly helped him fall asleep easier and have fewer headaches.