Sleep: Early Birds vs. Night Owls

The clock strikes midnight yet you are still not finished with your homework. Your textbook is open, and you are cramming. You are still procrastinating. You are not sleeping.

For many of us, sleeping past midnight is a normal occurrence. If we were getting our recommended 9 and a half hours of sleep, this wouldn’t be an issue. However, as students, we need to get up early the next morning for class, cutting into our precious beauty rest.
FEB Alice

Most MVHS students are night owls, have bedtimes past midnight, and prefer staying up late as opposed to waking up early. (Infographic by Alice Lou)

In a survey taken by 74 MVHS students, 68% report that they prefer staying up late, and are hence “night owls” rather than “early birds.”

Nevertheless, the 6.7% early birds urge that for them, getting up early serves them far better than staying up late.

Sophomore Barry Qi, one of few early birds in MVHS, sleeps at 10 daily and wakes up at 5 to finish any unfinished work.

“I feel like I’m more productive in the morning as opposed to at night,” Qi said. “At night, I tend to get really tired so I become unproductive.”

Qi’s take on productivity seems to be common among early birds.

Like Qi, Junior Anika Ramachandran values sleeping early in order to up her productivity. However, unlike Qi, Ramachandran also has her health in mind.

“Getting a good 9-10 hours of sleep every night is extremely important because if I don’t do that, then I fall sick very easily,” Ramachandran said.

But Ramachandran is truly a morning person. When given a choice, she would prefer to sleep early and get up early instead of sleep late and get up late.

“I would probably have to go to bed even earlier and wake up even earlier,” Ramachandran said. “Right now, I tend to want to finish as much homework as possible because I hate things until the last minute so that makes me want to stay up later, but if I knew there was no school constraining that, then I could sleep earlier with no problem.”

But is it better to be an early bird or a night owl? Benjamin Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Years later, author and humorist James Thurber amended it to, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead.” So… who are we supposed to believe?

Well, the answer is neither. Studies conducted by various neurologists and psychologists have shown that there is little evidence suggesting that the time at which you get out of bed actually impacts overall health.

While this might be good news for some, the results also reveal that overall health is heavily dependent on the amount of sleep you get — something far more foreboding for sleep-deprived MVHS students.

Biology teacher Pooya Hajjarian believes that the lack of sleep among students is primarily due to their late bedtimes.  

“I feel like generally speaking, for night owls, people go to bed pretty late and have to wake up early which impacts our health in that we’re not getting the amount of sleep we need,” Hajjarian said. “I know that I need somewhere around 8 hours and [students] need somewhere around 9, 9 and a half hours, and I hear a lot of students tell me that they got 5 or 6 the night before, and that makes me think that that’s absolutely not good for their health.”

So what can we do?

“I would recommend going to bed by 10,” said Hajjarian. “I know that’s really difficult for them to do but if they have to wake up at 7, then they should be going to bed by 10 because whatever they can do to get that 9 and a half hours is what they need, otherwise, they’re falling into a sleep debt.”

The problem is, many MVHS students have no choice but to stay up late to finish their homework or study for tests if they do not want to get up early.

Then should the district take responsibility?

Just over a year ago, there was a petition ran by students and parents advocating for later school start times. However, the petition closed after barely obtaining half the number of supporters needed.

“[Later start times] interfere more with after school activities,” said Junior Joyce Wu. “I prefer staying up late as opposed to waking up early.”

With the dedication of MVHS students to both academics and extracurriculars, sleep appears to no longer be a priority. As students, all we can do is try our best to increase our awareness, increase our productivity, and get in the amount of sleep that we truly need.