Sleep and Smarts: Do They Relate?

Robert Igbokwe Latin has recently taken several initiatives in attempt to reduce stress levels and generally improve student life in the upper school– specifically by trying to make sure that students are getting enough sleep. Many teachers, such as the Upper School math teacher Mr. McArthur, have put time caps on how much time students should spend on homework, and some teachers grade homework only for completion. Freshman humanities classes are completely ungraded for the first quarter, and during freshman orientation, a variety of sessions were  devoted to helping students with organization. But are students really getting enough sleep? Are any of these steps actually working? To some degree, they are. Now that homework doesn’t count towards a grade, students seem to feel much more comfortable making mistakes. Many students also seem to be performing better on quizzes and tests now that they have more time to study. Freshman, Rashail Wasim explained, “Now that the stress around homework has been reduced, I no longer have to obsess over getting every question right, and I have more time to study for tests.” However, some students still find themselves going to sleep somewhere between 11:00 PM and 2:00 AM. Sometimes it’s because of homework, but far more often than not–particularly among underclassmen–it’s because they were up binge watching Netflix, talking to friends, or staying awake for the sake of it. It’s as if students don’t want to go to sleep. That, by going to sleep they are losing something, or rather by staying awake until the early morning, they are gaining something. Students look at sleeping, or more accurately, not sleeping, as a competition. For some reason, students at Latin and many other schools view sleeping after midnight as a display of intelligence. The idea seems to be that if you were up all night doing homework, you must be smart. Less sleep  is now a badge of honor. Even on social media, students often  brag about getting four hours of sleep or how the only reason they function is because of a steady diet of coffee and energy drinks. Other students find themselves up at night doing absolutely nothing. When asked why, they struggle to give an answer. For them, it seems like doing anything at all, whether it means watching an entire season of a show in one night or procrastinating work until the night has turned to morning, is better than going to sleep. Freshman, Randy Pierre, when asked about why he doesn’t get his full eight hours a night said, “Although it’s not as bad as it was last year, sometimes… I just don’t feel like sleeping.” By eliminating the stress that comes with homework, Latin has helped get rid of one reason for students not sleeping. But that’s only one reason of many. Students at Latin need to understand that getting only four hours of sleep is not an indicator of intelligence and in fact demonstrates procrastination and a lack of organization. And that the majority of things they think can only be done when everyone is sleeping can be done earlier, perhaps when most people are awake.  ]]>