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The dawn of “COVID-somnia” disrupts students’ sleep patterns

By Breanna Lu and Miranda Lu Feb. 03, 2021

Ivan Zhu Art

Recently, neurologists coined the term “COVID-somnia,” referring to the exacerbation of sleep problems such as sleep deprivation and insomnia amidst the current global health crisis. Although some have been able to get more sleep, overall irregularities in sleep patterns have led to various health issues including obesity and high blood pressure.

While staying up late and having difficulty sleeping was common prior to COVID-19, Stanford Medicine reports that quarantine has worsened preexisting sleep issues. Common problems include insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders, both of which involve daytime fatigue and difficulty falling and staying asleep. Moreover, the Wall Street Journal has stated that teens are staying up later at night and sleeping more during the day.

Furthermore, an increase in technology usage from online learning has negatively affected sleeping, since the blue light found in electronic screens boosts alertness, preventing users from falling asleep, explains Peak Health. Additionally, according to the Clark Chronicle, teenagers’ use of social media during the pandemic has become a way to cope with boredom. Aside from electronics, social isolation, uncertainty about the future and fear of contracting COVID-19 have also been damaging sleep quality.

“My sleep schedule has gotten unpredictable during the pandemic because the lack of social interaction makes me lose motivation and stay up late completing school assignments,” Sophomore Keshav Sethi said.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is vital to maintaining one’s physical, mental and emotional health—it allows the human body to heal and recharge, leads to better coordination and lowers the risk of heart disease. Sufficient sleep also helps maintain a strong immune system, which is especially important during the pandemic, as it can help decrease the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. The body works to repair itself when resting, which makes eight to 10 hours of sleep, as recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), crucial for teenagers who are in a period of growth and development. An important part of this development relates to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for information processing, impulse control, memory, motor function and emotional regulation.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is vital to maintaining one’s physical, mental and emotional health

However, in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 73 percent of high school students did not regularly get a healthy amount of sleep. This can be especially harmful as lack of sleep is associated with poor mental health. Harvard Health Publishing reports that 69 percent of teenagers with depression and 27 percent with anxiety experience sleep problems. Moreover, the National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organization centered around sleep education, explains that sleep deprivation is linked to stress and impulsive behavior in addition to being associated with health problems like obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. For students, bad grades and a short attention span are all consequences of insufficient sleep, the Los Angeles Times notes.

As a result of widespread sleep deprivation among teens, many have expressed support for organizations focused on improving students’ quality of sleep. From 2016 to 2017, a study conducted by the University of Washington and the Salk Institute found that when the school start time was pushed back by nearly an hour in two Seattle high schools, student grade averages improved by 4.5 percent.

In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 328, which requires high schools in the state to start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and school districts will have until the 2022 school year to modify their bell schedules. Furthermore, AASM, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Parent Teacher Association and the American Medical Association, among other organizations, have endorsed the prospect of instituting a national school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 328, which requires high schools in the state to start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and school districts will have until the 2022 school year to modify their bell schedules.

“Organizations like these are extremely important to the health of teens. Implementing changes such as later school start times or restrictions on the amount of homework assigned could allow students to get a few extra hours of sleep, improve focus and increase productivity during the day,” Sophomore Ellie Kim said.

Aside from efforts to make school start later, sleep-related problems can be diminished by establishing a consistent daily schedule. Maintaining a fixed, appropriate bedtime, limiting exposure to electronic devices in the evening and doing a relaxing activity for 15 minutes before going to bed, are recommended by the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry.

Additionally, some have turned to nap-taking as a solution for sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue. According to WebMD, naps can regulate emotions, increase energy and improve brain function. However, napping may also cause individuals to feel disoriented and tired after waking up. The Washington Post writes that nap-taking has increased during the pandemic due to stress-related tiredness, which can lead to difficulty falling asleep at night.

“I nap during advisory and after school, and have definitely taken more naps during online school than in-person because distance learning is more draining. Napping really affects my sleep schedule, as I now go to sleep at 3 or 4 a.m. and then have no energy throughout the day,” Freshman Ayla Monserate said.

Sleep issues continue to plague teens during the pandemic, but hope remains. Working towards better routine management and advocating for change regarding major factors of sleep deprivation are among the various actions that people can take to address the problem. These not only alleviate concerns surrounding sleep but also help students become healthier individuals.


About the Contributors

Breanna Lu

Staff Writer

Breanna Lu is a freshman and a new staff writer. She enjoys binge watching sci-fi movies and her favorite book genre is murder mysteries/crime fiction. In her free time, you will most likely find her asleep or chatting with her friends.

Miranda Lu

Staff Writer

Miranda Lu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies in her free time.

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