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Why Am I Sleepy During The School Year And Not In The Summer?

by Kirstin

In the school year I go to bed at 11pm and wake up at 5am and most of the time I am still sleepy and I want to go to sleep at school; I also do take a nap in the school after I get done with homework because I am so sleepy. But in the summer time I go to sleep around 2am and wake up at 9am and am not sleepy at all.

I have no idea why I do not have any energy in the school year when I get 7 hours of sleep, where in the summer time I get 8 hours and am fine.

Kevin: Hey Kirstin, thanks for writing in. There are two main things I'd like to point out before handing it over to visitor comments. One is that 1 hour less of sleep per night can be hugely significant when stretched over a week, let alone an entire school year. If, for instance, you have a sleep need of 8 hours you'd be accumulating 1 hour of sleep debt per weekday. In a week you'd have a sleep debt of roughly 5 hours, over 20 hours of debt in a month, and nearly 70 hours of debt in 3 months. That's enough to seriously slow you down and make you super sleepy during the day. Go here for more on understanding sleep debt.

(Note: Individual sleep need varies. The 8 I used above was just an example. Your sleep need could also be something like 8.5 or 9 hours as well, which would lead to a faster accumulating sleep debt.)

Another point to consider is that at 5 am (when you wake up during the school year) your body is at a completely different point in its circadian rhythms than at 9 am (when you wake up during the summer). Different alertness-inducing or sleep-inducing hormones are being released at 5 am (and 6 am and 7 am, for that matter) than are being released later in the morning. Being awake (and struggling to stay awake at school perhaps) for the 4 hours before the 9 am alerting hormones kick in can give you an entirely different perception of how tired you feel during the day. These alertness and sleepiness hormones are known as part of a process called Clock-Dependent Alerting (CDA), and we should have some articles about it soon.

All the best!

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Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

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