When I first saw the email from Head of School John Palfrey announcing the sleep competition, I was unreasonably excited. Who wouldn’t want an extra 25 dollars? I immediately decided that I was going to get that prize no matter what. Therein lies the problem: I wasn’t focused on getting more sleep. I just wanted the cash! Moreover, it occurred to me that it was completely feasible to receive the reward without making any lifestyle changes. Palfrey may as well just hand everyone 25 dollars right now, for all the difference it makes.
While this competition is certainly engaging, it fails to address the root of our problem and implement actual changes that can ensure that students get enough sleep.
Even if all the students on campus follow the honor system meticulously, it is hard to expect students to suddenly just “sleep more.” Students cannot create more time than they already have, unless Palfrey’s 25 dollars could buy us time-turners, à la Hermione Granger.
In addition to their nightly homework, students are expected to participate and thrive in many extracurricular-activities. Many Andover students are also athletes, partaking in rigorous sports, and some are even student-athlete-musicians, who spend hours in orchestra and personal practice.
With all these commitments disrupting proper sleep, the obvious solution is to give something up. But students need homework to practice learned concepts and bump up their grades. Students could probably get more sleep if they dropped their extracurricular activities or a time-consuming sport, but no one has the right to force students to stop pursuing their passions. Even socializing is a sacred part of a student’s day, as a healthy social life and support network is just as important as other factors of wellness.
Unfortunately, the only time left in the day is the time spent sleeping. This is why telling us to “just sleep” won’t work. This is why I think it’s almost impossible for Palfrey’s competition to be effective.
The ideal solution would be to create a completely new Andover schedule so that students can have enough time to complete assignments and participate in extracurricular activities while teachers also have enough time to cover all the required material during class. To achieve this, we can either decrease the number of diploma requirements or implement more double periods into the schedule so that students don’t have to complete as many subjects of homework a night. Or, we can assign each student to a professional counselor who can help them plan out when their commitments fall during the week; this measure will ensure that most students use every minute of their time effectively. Whatever approach we decide to take, what I know for sure is that simply telling students to sleep more won’t help them do it.