With exam season here, everyone’s feeling the heat. But, for most students in India, the pressure to perform and compete does not end with examinations. Final exams are followed by stressful anticipation of results and hasty preparation for the next entrance test. Not surprisingly, the first casualty in this rat race is sleep.
But how exactly do we deal with this problem? Public schools and other institutes in Japan found a novel approach to the problem, and it’s one we’d do well to adopt.
How Sleep Breaks Boost Performance
“Schools in Japan tested a designated nap time in which students can take power naps – they found that it boosts performance, significantly increasing test scores”
As is often the case, the Japanese do tend to come up with seemingly insane ideas that actually work. Their approach to problem was to simply incorporate power naps into the daily routine. Their trials in Japanese schools and colleges have been so effective that similar strategies have also been employed in schools in the United States.
Power naps refer to short twenty minute sleep breaks that help people recharge. Across numerous schools in Japan, there is a designated nap time, during which the lights are dimmed and teachers play western classical music. Students are encouraged to sleep during these intervals, with most choosing to do so.
While several studies have found that power naps can help boost cognitive function and improve performance briefly, its efficacy had never been tested before on such a large scale. The results of initial trials revealed that student performance increased, with schools involved in the trial reporting higher test scores.
Since then the strategy has gained increasing popularity, being used in several other schools. The practice is now so popular in Japan that even offices encourage power naps, with many stores also selling ‘desk pillows’!
Why We Can’t Ignore Sleep Deprivation In Teens
“Chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents poses significant health risks and is also associated with higher incidence of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as smoking”
While there is no substitute for a full night’s sleep, it makes no sense to overwhelm students, forcing them to struggle to stay awake during lectures. Most students today get inadequate sleep and a large part of their focus and effort during classes goes into staying awake, not into learning.
According to health care experts, teens and children typically need more sleep than adults – eight to nine hours of sleep a night. Most students however, only get five to six hours of sleep each night. Naturally, this leads to problems with attention and focus, severely impairing learning.
As pointed out by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents also poses a significant health risk, as it is associated with higher incidence of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as smoking.
In light of these risks, and the extent of sleep deprivation affecting India, it is imperative that we adopt such measures to counter the problem.
Of course, power naps and sleeping pods are only quick fixes to a growing problem. If we really wish to tackle sleep deprivation and the associated health risks we need to overhaul our education system and change our work culture. Such huge changes could take decades however, so in the meantime it may be a good idea to try out strategies like these.
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