Napping is the best. Everyone knows that. And the nation's students would benefit greatly from more naps and more sleep, generally. Science backs this all up. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, sleep expert Dr. David Dinges says that overworked people—and this includes students—
develop "sleep debts" when they get less than six hours of sleep at night. That can lead to unintentional naps—the kind of naps that teachers have historically punished students for taking. Midday naps have been wired into us since the dawn of our species.
Humans are biologically programmed to sleep at night, and to take a nap in the midafternoon, though scientists aren’t sure why. 'There is no melatonin triggering the sleep, it just seems to be this harmonic phenomenon,' Dr. Dinges says. The consensus among his colleagues, he says, is that human civilization evolved mostly in equatorial climates, where it got very hot later in the day, and napping during the extreme heat optimized work performance.
Years of research concur with Dr. Dinges, particularly as it relates to kids and teens. The National Sleep Foundation
notes that sleep deprivation is a major driver of many adolescent problems.
Although society often views sleep as a luxury that ambitious or active people cannot afford, research shows that getting enough sleep is a biological necessity, as important to good health as eating well or exercising. Teens are among those least likely to get enough sleep; while they need on average 9 1/4 hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, health and brain development, teens average fewer than 7 hours per school night by the end of high school, and most report feeling tired during the day.
This is why high schools adopting later start times are doing the right thing. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)
released a recommendation stating that high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The AASM says that, without these later start times, students are put at greater risk of things like depression, poor academic performance, decreased classroom engagement and increased tardiness levels. If schools don't change their start times, perhaps it's best to build some nap times into the midday class periods? I think it would help students feel a little bit more prepared and ready to learn. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.