Different teaching methods during the pandemic dramatically changed the amount of sleep among students

Young teenage girl sleeping snuggled in knitted blue blanket.

Different teaching strategies imposed by schools during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in dramatic differences in when and how much students slept.

From October 14, 2020 to November 26, 2020, researchers recruited American adolescents across the United States in grades 6-12 through social media. They examined the association among three instructional approaches, start times, and sleep during the pandemic.

Of the 5,245 adolescents, roughly 1,070 middle school and 1,951 high school students reported getting sufficient sleep when taking in-person instruction– at least nine hours for middle school and at least 8 hours for high school. For students taking online classes, 2,030 middle school and 2,984 high school students reported getting sufficient sleep. But 3,252 middle school and 4,248 high school students taking online without live classes reported getting sufficient sleep. Students receiving online instruction without live classes or scheduled teacher interactions woke up the latest and slept the most, while students receiving in-person instruction in school woke up the earliest and slept the least.

“This study adds to the growing body of evidence addressing the profound impact of the pandemic on adolescent sleep health,” said Marishka Brown, Ph.D., “As the new school year rapidly approaches, these findings provide important insights into the existing types of instructional approaches and the potential consequences they could have on sleep patterns in teens.”

The study, partly-funded by NHLBI, is in the journal Sleep.