Transition from online to in-person learning impacts students’ sleep

Images provided by author. Top: Student falling asleep while doing homework.

The average amount of sleep a high school student receives is about 7 hours a day. However, the CDC says that students should get 8-10 hours of sleep to achieve a healthy mind ready for school. During quarantine, many students achieved this suggested amount of sleep due to school being online and timings being more flexible, but now that school has started in person, students are getting much less sleep. One of the major reasons for this sudden change is the hard transition from online learning to in-person learning, which has forced many students to change their sleep schedules in order to get their work done in time. 

Many students here have experienced this lack of sleep recently. A student at Washington said they only get 7 hours of sleep on average after working on their homework for 3-4 hours each day. The National PTA and National Education Association says that students should spend about 10 minutes per night per grade level, meaning high schoolers should spend around 90-120 minutes. 3-4 hours exceeds this guideline by a large amount of time. The student also provided that they used to get 8-9 hours of sleep when school was online. Another contributing factor to this sleep problem could be the timing and schedule of school. “School is very long, we literally get out at 3:30 p.m.” they said. “I want to cut one hour off, and teachers just constantly make you do work and there’s no real breaks because even during lunch many people have to go to meetings or retake tests.” School ending much later causes students to have less time to work on their homework, and many also have extra curricular after school classes. 

student book
Student asleep while reading a book for school.
student sleep
Results of studies on students and sleep shown in “The Wrong Sacrifice: Sleep Deprivation Place in High School” by Eva Langenbrunner.

Shruthi Subramaniyan, a sophomore at Washington, agrees. “Having a lot of homework to do or being stressed for tests and quizzes causes me to get less sleep,” she said. “I was able to sleep for a longer amount of time because I could wake up later and asynchronous time allowed me to finish most, if not all, of my homework in class. I could go to bed earlier as well.” Subramaniyan also expressed that the fatigue that she felt during school was mostly due to “lack of sleep or general tiredness that comes from constantly doing work or being at school for a long period of time.” Transitioning from online to in-person learning has also required students to get back in the fast paced schedule instead of the laid back Zoom meetings. This has also interfered with many people’s experiences with sleep, either causing them to work harder to be able to sleep or work late and sleep later. 

There are many effects lack of sleep has on high schoolers, especially with the recent transition. One example of an effect is the inability to focus on school subjects during class. Many students feel drowsy and just want to sleep when a lecture is being given and often miss a lot of information. Due to this loss of knowledge on the lesson being taught, students find it harder to complete assignments faster. This also affects test scores, which affects the student’s grade, which affects their chances of getting into colleges they want to attend. In addition,  sleeplessness can increase risk of diabetes and high blood pressure since many students use caffeine as a way to make up for their loss of sleep. Teens can also experience clinical depression, anxiety, irritability, and stress that can lead to panic attacks. 


Although there are many other factors that affect sleep, like the use of technology, school proves to be one of the most important ones. There are a few tips teens can follow to achieve the suggested amount of sleep needed to do well in school. Students can try to keep a schedule that gives them a guideline of when to do what so they can sleep on time to rest 8-10 hours. Procrastination is also a big issue, and with limited distractions teens can finish homework faster. Sleeping in on weekends also helps catch up on much needed sleep and is the easiest way to do so. These tips may not work for everyone, and parents and a doctor’s help may be needed sometimes.

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