Stuy Sleeping Spectrum

Reading Time: 6 minutes

One of the greatest joys of childhood is staying up past one’s bedtime. Whether it be by getting up secretly after their parents have gone to bed or staying up for special occasions, children in elementary school boast about going to sleep at 10:00, 11:00, or even 12:00, hoping to impress their peers with having stayed up so late. At Stuyvesant, students also boast about sleep, and while it may seem that everyone is running a “pity me” race over who gets by on the least amount of sleep, a universal wish among the student body is to receive more sleep.

Just as two-thirds of all freshmen at Stuyvesant expect to graduate within the top 25 percent of the class as reported by The Spectator in previous years, the majority of Stuyvesant students do not expect to receive as little sleep as they do.

“Before coming to Stuy, I expected to get seven hours of sleep a night,” sophomore Elizabeth Tang admitted. Similarly, senior Zihao Liu said he expected to get “six and a half to seven hours of sleep” each night. Nonetheless, even after three months at Stuyvesant, the majority of freshmen are still unsure of how much sleep they should be getting. Recent posts in the “Dear Incoming Stuyvesant Class of 2022 ... WE HAVE ADVICE!” group on Facebook include: “How many hours of sleep is normal freshman year?” “what sleep,” and “How many hours of sleep do y’all get?...” Those posts have received more than 250 comments in total, mostly from students who report getting less than six hours of sleep each night. Freshman Andy Huang suggested that most of these people, like him, cannot manage their time. “I get little sleep because I’m a huge procrastinator,” he explained. Based on the number of comments on the Facebook posts, the majority of the students at Stuyvesant procrastinate too.

Though it may seem like everyone at Stuyvesant has bags under their eyes, there are some students who actually get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep. Junior Aditi Haiman reports getting eight hours of sleep a night. Like all Stuyvesant students, Haiman is very busy. “I play piano, which is pretty time intensive, I’m in some clubs at school, and I’m also doing a mentorship program,” she said.

However, Haiman also stressed the importance of not procrastinating and instead finishing homework immediately after getting home. “I think procrastination is the main issue, or spending unnecessary time on assignments that shouldn't take too long or doing unnecessary work [are the issues]. I think it's helpful to be organized, know exactly what you should be finishing each day, and not get distracted by other things before starting work. I always make it a point to finish my homework first, so I know how much time I have to do other things,” Haiman recommended.

Unlike Haiman, junior Yifan Wang has a track record of getting low amounts of sleep. Her current sleeping schedule is largely affected by her workload from her five AP classes. She explained, “For me, I tend to get stuck on a homework question and waste a lot of time on that.” Wang admitted that she does procrastinate, especially on the weekends, which does ultimately affect her sleep schedule. In the future, Wang hopes to spend breaks more effectively because she acknowledges that she wastes time during break, so “when school starts again [she] gets back to the no sleep cycle,” she said.

However, Wang does not regret taking so many APs. Instead, she tries to listen to advice from seniors. “I should work smarter and not harder. [...] I should spend less time on homeworks that are less significant or I know I learn less from. For example, I spent a lot of time writing a lot of details for Cornell notes, but my teacher insists that we should think more and write less.” Wang said. She elaborated, “Working smarter doesn’t mean not doing homework you know teachers won’t collect! Smarter means more thinking is involved and less copying from textbook or notes.” Even with this advice, Wang only manages to squeeze in two hours of sleep on average. She jokingly revealed, “I fall asleep in some classes, and I sleep on the train sometimes. That adds maybe an hour to my sleep time total.”

Nonetheless, it is entirely possible to get a lot more sleep as one adjusts to life at Stuyvesant. Liu admitted, “During sophomore year, I was really bad at managing my time, and I also killed myself with extracurriculars, so I got three hours of sleep.” Despite this, has has since learned to manage his time better, getting about five and a half hours of sleep junior year. Currently, Liu tries “to sleep for at least five hours” every night, he said. For Liu, part of sleeping more is recognizing what he actually wants to do in terms of extracurriculars and coursework. “I regret sacrificing so much sleep during sophomore year to do research everyday,” he explained.

Despite this, Liu believes there is some value in being sleep deprived in high school. “[Though] I wish I had dropped some of those commitments, functioning on minimal sleep helped me realize the importance of a good sleep schedule and mental health. Without once overburdening myself with rigorous classes and time-consuming extracurriculars, I wouldn't have learned that it is important to take a break once in a while, take a mental health day, or dedicate a few hours on the weekends to catch up on sleep,” he said. His thoughts are echoed by countless alumni who report that college is easy for them and that they receive much more sleep in college, having already learned how to manage their time. Liu’s advice is to “write down your objectives for the night on a piece of paper. It provides a lot of motivation when you finish your work and check these items off one by one. Also, work in short intervals. Work for 30 minutes and take a short break and repeat. You’ll find yourself being more productive, and more efficient,” he said.

Senior Rina Sotiropoulou also believes that good time management skills are a must, yet she believes that stress and mental health issues play into the amount of sleep that most students get. During junior year, she only got about four hours of sleep a night, and she explained that “it was a combination of the workload as well as the stress. As most of us know, junior year is the ‘big scary year that counts for college,’ and so that really got to my head. I'd get home from school stressed out and tired, doing a little bit of work but not much. In short, I developed odd studying habits to cope with the stress and workload that caused me to get less sleep.”

Sotiropoulou began to wake up at 4:00 a.m. in order to finish work and enjoyed great results with her new studying schedule. “I am definitely more of a morning person. I can barely get anything done in the evening when I get home from school,” she laughed. Sotiropoulou also stresses the importance of not drinking too much coffee. “No screens an hour before bed, lay off the coffee, and make a list of everything you have to do and prioritize it. [...] Also, if you are getting all your work done but getting unhealthy amounts of sleep, seriously [consider] lightening your workload by dropping a hard elective or AP. Having good grades is important, but at the end of the day, your health is what comes first,” she advised.

Sotiropoulou is not the only one to wake up in the middle of the night to do work. Sophomore Abir Taheer made the switch just a few months ago and is happy with the results so far. At the beginning of the year, Taheer got about four hours of sleep, but now he usually gets seven to eight. “Before, I was just less concentrated, and it took way longer to finish my homework. Now, I'm essentially putting sleep above homework and then trying to do homework after the sleep necessity is met,” he said. He explained that because most of his friends are asleep when he wakes up to do his homework, he is less distracted and the additional time crunch forces him to be more productive. Taheer also reported an improvement in his mental health as he is less sleep deprived. Though his approach may not work for everyone, Taheer surmised that “when you work, you don't get distracted. It's all a feedback loop. More sleep leads to better focus leads to less time needed to do assignments leads to more sleep. And the counter is true as well.”

Ultimately, sleep is an important part of the livelihoods of Stuyvesant students. During Camp Stuy, Big Sibs show freshmen a graphic about a student’s life consisting of balancing a social life, grades, and sleep. They stress the importance of maintaining a fulfilling sleep schedule to freshmen whether or not it sticks. However, over the years, bonding over how little sleep students get each night has become part of Stuyvesant culture. Students often pride themselves over how little sleep they get while managing to function, and pulling an all-nighter has been described as a Stuyvesant initiation ritual on Facebook. While students get little sleep because of a variety of factors, it is important to remember that one of the biggest ones is still attending Stuyvesant and the workload that comes with it. Little sleep is seen as the default rather than the exception. “What do you expect, it’s Stuyvesant,” Liu laughed. Stuyvesant would not be Stuyvesant if everyone got nine hours of sleep each night.