By: Vivian Wang
Home has now become an unfortunate blend of school, work meetings, and destroyed sleep schedules. Since the stay-at-home order in March this year, home has become the epicenter of daily life.
Sleep schedules have become severely damaged since quarantine; this shift in sleep schedules has been predominantly seen amongst high school students who now have to balance school and their mental health while being quarantined at home. Valencia High School students start their day at 7:55 in the morning and end their day before lunch at noon, with several hours of freetime available to students to attend office hours or get a head start on homework. When school and home become the same environment, learning becomes extremely difficult since students cannot switch their minds to separate their school learning environment with their home and family environment.
Although there is now extra time in the day for students to get a head start, students find themselves falling more and more behind. Students perceive the large section of their day as an opportunity to procrastinate on homework and other commitments, especially since Valencia High School students only attend their core classes three times a week due to block scheduling. “I find it harder and harder to stay on track of school. It’s gotten so hard to focus in class and so I end up having to spend time reviewing on my own time. I’m also sleeping later at night around one in the morning since I keep getting distracted on my phone after my last school video calls each day”, shared a Valencia High School student when asked about her thoughts on online learning.
Learning via Zoom during quarantine has also caused students to sleep through Zoom lectures. Staying up until 3 a.m. the night before class, students take advantage of Zoom lectures to take a quick power nap, with their cameras off and microphones muted. Students fall into a negative feedback loop since many students do not start homework until late at night which then leads to pulling all-nighters and consequently relying on caffeine to stay awake.
Back when school was in-person learning, many students were disciplined and could easily find a rhythm and routine to their daily schedule. Before the rise of COVID-19, students could separate school life and home life. Learning stayed at school while family time and self-care time stayed at home. With these two areas of life no longer being mutually exclusive, the mind finds it difficult to distinguish between school life and personal life. From early morning to late at night, students find themselves with their eyes glued to the screen, whether it be for class lectures or homework assignments. When spending several hours in front of a screen, especially before bedtime, the sleep-inducing hormones become suppressed and many people find it harder to quickly fall asleep. Sleep schedules are impacted the most when considering online learning because of the spiked amount of time spent in front of a screen.
The solution to adjusting sleep schedules: setting personal sleep goals with five minute adjustments each day. One strategy to achieve the ideal sleep schedule is to gradually work towards the sleeping time goal each day by sleeping five minutes earlier each day. When considering this five-minute interval sleeping goal, accountability also plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the goals are realistic. Sharing sleep schedules with friends and family and setting aside enough time to prepare to call it night helps to make the idealized sleep schedule a reality.