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Should You Be Allowed to Nap at School?

Some schools are adding nap rooms so sleepy students can catch up on rest. Should yours do the same? 

Illustration by R.J. Matson

It’s happening all over America, probably right this minute wherever you live: Countless people are stumbling through the day, eyes glazed over and their minds losing focus.

No, it’s not the zombie apocalypse. It’s just sleep-deprived students struggling to make it through another school day.

Experts say teens need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night. Yet most fall far short. About 60 percent of middle schoolers and 70 percent of high schoolers get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a major problem because weary minds have a hard time learning new information—exactly what’s required of students.

Now some schools are trying to address the sleep-shortage problem by letting teens nap during the school day. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, for instance, some high schools have added nap pods—recliners with hoods that can be pulled down over a student’s head to block out light and other distractions. At those schools, teens can request to leave class and go rest for 20 minutes.

There’s no question that the average American teen doesn’t get enough sleep, but is allowing kids to nap in school really the answer?

Sleep Matters

Experts agree that sleep is important for your health and well-being. Not only is sleep crucial for learning, it also helps your body grow and plays a big role in fighting stress.

But for many students, getting enough sleep can feel impossible. After all, many schools start early—between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Clubs, sports, and part-time jobs often extend into the evening, so many teens have to cut back on sleep to finish their homework.

That’s the case for high school senior Karli Waldrep, 18, of Mahomet, Illinois. She recently was involved in a school musical. Most nights, Karli didn’t get home from rehearsal until 11 p.m.—and then she crashed. The teen got up early to finish her homework before school, but then she sometimes struggled to stay awake in class.

A 20- to 30-minute nap could help kids feel more alert and focused.

“I worry that my teachers think I’m a slacker when I doze off,” Karli says. “In reality, I work really hard, and I hate feeling so tired when I’m trying to learn.”

That’s where a nap could help. While a nap can’t replace a good night’s sleep, say experts, research indicates that it could help with learning. Studies show that after a 20- to 30-minute rest, you feel more alert and focused, and your brain does a better job of retaining new information. That sounds good to Karli: “The mental boost a nap can provide is just what busy students like me need during the school day.”

Yagera Kanigi Pombe/EyeEm/Getty Images (Italy); Frank Rothe/VISUM/Redux (China); Xavi Gomez/Cover/Getty Images (Spain)

Excuse to Skip Class?

But not everyone is sold on the idea of allowing teens to snooze at school. Some parents and teachers worry students will miss too much class time. And what if they start using nap breaks as an excuse to get out of class?

Others are concerned that letting students nap at school won’t prepare them for the working world. After all, few adults have jobs that allow them to nap if they get drowsy during the day.

Some people worry that students might use nap breaks to get out of class.

Sneha Mittal, 17, shares that concern. “I want to be prepared for a job that might not allow a midday nap,” says the Murphy, Texas, 10th-grader. Sneha is no stranger to a packed schedule: She’s on her school’s swim team and plays piano, both of which require hours of practice. She thinks that rather than letting students take naps, schools should teach teens how to manage their time more efficiently.

Besides, she points out, nap breaks are no guarantee that tired teens will really get more sleep. Says Sneha, “Students might be less motivated to get enough sleep at home if they’re given the time to nap and a cozy place to do it at school.”

Think It Over

So should students be allowed to nap at school? Consider how it might change things if nap rooms appeared in your building. Would you take advantage of the opportunity to get some extra rest so you could do your best in class? Or would you use it as an excuse to stay up late and keep texting your friends?

Write About It! Write an essay explaining your point of view on napping at school. Include arguments from this article, along with your own reasons, to support your claim.

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