The Red & Black
Student Life

The Sleeping Habits of the Class of 2021

Junior year is notorious for its grueling workload, as students prepare to apply for college while taking challenging courses. Many students in WHS’s Class of 2021 fill their schedules with tough classes, athletics, and an infinite amount of extracurricular activities, often foregoing sleep in the process.

But how much is too much? Sleep is essential for the growth and development of the mind and body, affecting one’s alertness, mood, immunity, and much more. Overnight, the brain consolidates memories, properly storing the immense amount of information it received throughout the day. After sleep, people retain more information and perform better on memory tasks.

The body requires long periods of sleep in order to recover, grow muscle, repair tissue, and produce hormones. Younger people, in critical periods of growth and learning, need even more sleep (between 8 and 10 hours for teenagers).

To get an idea of the sleeping habits of the Class of 2021, 50 juniors completed a survey. Before getting into the analysis, it must be noted that the median—the midpoint of the dataset—is the more accurate measure of center for this particular dataset.

Without further ado, here are the survey’s results: Students take a median of 4 Honors/AP classes, spending 3 hours every day on homework and 3 hours on their phones. The maximum number of hours spent on homework is 8, and the maximum number of hours of phone usage is 6.

On a school night, students start working on homework at a median of 6 PM. 79.5% of the surveyed juniors participate in sports after school, and 70.5% participate in extracurricular activities.

When asked for the average amount of sleep one receives per school night, student responses ranged from a minimum of 4.5 hours to a maximum of 9.5 hours.

Surveyed students sleep for a median number of 7 hours on a school night and 9 hours on a non-school night. On a typical school night, most students go to sleep at 12 AM, while two students reported going to sleep at 3 AM. The majority of students reported waking up between 7 and 7:30 am.

Now for correlations—a statistical technique that shows how strongly two variables are related. The closer the correlation is to 1 or -1, the stronger the association is; the closer it is to 0, the weaker it is.

Whether it is positive or negative indicates a positive or negative association respectively. Correlations only show how two variables relate; they do not imply that one variable causes the other.

There is a moderate positive trend between the number of Honors/AP classes taken and the number of hours spent daily on homework, with a correlation of .418. Between the number of Honors classes taken and how much sleep students get per school night, there is a weak correlation of -.177. There is a moderate negative trend with a correlation of -.319 between the amount of time spent on homework and the amount of sleep per school night.

The number of Honors/AP classes taken and the amount of time students spend on their phone have a correlation of -.368, showing a moderate negative trend.

Having most students sleep 7 hours per school night may be an area of concern, as the overtaxed body and mind require more time (at least 8 hours!) to sufficiently recharge and develop.

However, examining the medians of the data, the Class of 2021 seems to be getting a decent amount of sleep—not great, but decent. Concerns about students’ sleeping habits may not apply to the entirety of the junior class; they instead apply to the more extreme individual cases.

In Defense of Mandatory P.E.

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Mandatory P.E. classes get a lot of (undeserved!) flak from the freshmen and sophomore crowd. First and foremost, there is that cloud of fear and apprehension surrounding the Pacer—a cloud that hangs heavy in the minds of many P.E. students.

For others, gym is an uncomfortable balancing act of putting in the just-right amount of effort: try too little, and you look like a slacker; try too hard, and you risk looking like, well, a tryhard.

Then, there is the perception of these classes as being a less productive study hall, a 67-minute time block in which you have to force that SAT subject test out of your mind, a space-filler that prevents underclassmen from taking other, more rigorous classes. In short, gym is, as I have often heard (with subtle variations), “fine but kind of a waste of time.”

In my opinion, there is one glaring flaw with this reasoning: for many students left to their own devices, the first thing to be compromised is physical health. In the fast-paced society we live in, many students subject themselves to dangerous levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Here at Winchester, there is constant pressure to be busy in some way or another, a pressure that is often unsustainable and leaves bright students quickly burnt-out and world-weary.

Students often compare how little sleep they get and how reliant they are on coffee, while people like myself wonder what they must be doing wrong to get seven and a half hours of sleep per night—a count that should be modest, in the context of a developed nation. As a result, students often forego exercise completely in favor of an extra half-hour of studying time, extracurricular cramming, internship/college applications, work, or even “getting ready to work” (i.e., stress-binging season 3 of The Good Place).

For me, gym was sometimes frustrating. It was more often than not my first class of the day, and I wanted more than anything to just get out of it so I could study for my biology test, goshdarnit!

Looking back, however, I realize that some of my favorite moments of my underclassmen years involved playing obstacle-course dodgeball with classmates I barely knew, or learning badminton and failing spectacularly.

I have no doubt I looked absolutely ridiculous, but all in all, it was a good time. Maybe the real secret to physical education classes isn’t really how to get better pull-up form. Maybe it’s about forcing yourself not to be busy, forcing yourself to live in the present for just 67 minutes.

It’s about setting aside your stressors, forgetting about that project you have coming up next Tuesday, and taking care of your body and your mind. Physical Education is like a walking meditation, forcing you to slow down, focus on your breathing, and worry about nothing more than hitting that darn pickleball.

For me, P.E. was an Eden in which I was afforded the rare luxury of letting go. So, while I want to be aware of the fact that I have inhabited this earth for merely seventeen years, my humble advice to you, underclassman, is to enjoy P.E. class. Enjoy those precious 67 minutes.

Play every Capture-the-Critter game like it’s your last. Don’t worry about looking ridiculous in flag football, or about what you have to do in a week, a month, or a year. Instead, take a few deep breaths, toss a couple frisbees, and don’t waste the day you’re living in by worrying about the one to come.