New Mexico Schools Give Sleepy Students a High-Tech Nap

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Nap clubs. Quiet rooms. Wellness centers with cozy couches and tea.

Schools are trying new ways to give rest to sleepy students, including Latinos who are more sleep-deprived than their peers.

Nap pod in New Mexico schoolsNap pod in New Mexico schools
Nursing student Joyce Larsen demonstrates the Restworks EnergyPod at New Mexico State University in February 2017. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News via USA Today)

That includes high-tech “nap pods” for students in two high schools in Las Cruces (59.6% Latino) and two in Sunland Park (95.2% Latino), N.M. Students sit in the pods, available in the nurse’s office, under a sensory-reduction dome that plays relaxing music and soothing lights for 20 minutes before gently vibrating to wake the students.

“[It is] great for kids who weren’t getting enough sleep at night—which teenagers don’t, for a variety of reasons,” Sandy Peugh, health services director for the Las Cruces school district, told Las Cruces Sun-News.

“They were coming to school exhausted, and we’d put them in the pod. Within 20 minutes, they were coming out refreshed and focused, and they were able to stay at school, so instruction time wasn’t missed.”

Teens and Sleep Deprivation

Today’s teens are notoriously sleep-deprived, and with good reason.

hispanic sleeping lady tired clockYouth rise early for school, and often join in activities after school that keep them moving past sunset each day. When it’s time for bed, their natural biological clocks tell them they’re not ready to sleep.

Only 60% of Latinos get recommended hours of sleep, compared to 67% of Whites.

Insufficient sleep impairs learning, impulse control, and judgment. It appears to even increase risk for disease, studies have shown.

Even a day’s sleepiness can disturb adolescent’s hormones in ways that not only cultivate hunger, but also encourage the use of calories to produce fat, rather than heat and energy.

Emerging Nap Solutions

Some high schools have nap clubs, where students meet and rest quietly.

BEFORE: Student sleeping at his desk in class.
Source: Public School Review

“Some [schools] are trying quiet rooms, where no speaking or technology is allowed,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “And wellness centers that offer everything from cozy couches and free tea to sleep-health consultations are available at some public schools.”

In New Mexico, they’re giving those ideas a high-tech slant.

The nap pods were introduced in Las Cruces and Sunland Park schools after Linda Summers, an associate professor in the school of nursing at New Mexico State University, discovered nap pods in a sleep lounge in the basement of the Empire State Building in New York.

Weary tourists and worn-out New Yorkers were taking short nap breaks throughout the day in these Jetsons-style electronic beds.

Summers saw this and immediately thought of her students who were struggling to get enough sleep each night.

AFTER. Student takes a 20-minute school-nurse approved break in the nap pod. Source: Joe Suarez for NPR

Each pod features a reclined chair with a domed sensory-reduction cover that closes around one’s head and upper body.

The pods feature a start button that activates a relaxing sequence of music and soothing lights, describes Damien Willis for the Las Cruces Sun-News. At the end of 20 minutes, the pod begins to vibrate gently and an uptempo beat gradually starts playing to wake the student.

Nap Pods Help Reduce Class Absences

After grants from two New Mexico community organizations paid for the pods, students were on their way to nap land!

“Of 100 students who used the pod, 99 were able to return to class within 20 minutes — with tremendous increases in energy and mood,” Linda Summers of New Mexico State University told Las Cruces Sun-News.

The nap pods have done more than save students from leaving class and school.

They help students with migraines, stress from home or school concerns, and anger issues that may normally lead to fighting.

“And it wasn’t just kids who had sleep issues,” Peugh told Las Cruces Sun-News. “It worked on kids who had anxiety — extremely gifted kids who might have test anxiety. Teachers came in, stressed out, and we’d put them in the pod.”

The pods are used about four or five times a typical day.

“What I found amazing was how, after resting, students would tell you what was going on in their lives,” Peugh said. She found out that many of her students were sleeping in their cars, homeless, or living in a chaotic environment that wasn’t conducive to sleep.

“I felt like someone was comforting me, actually,” said one Las Cruces student after utilizing the nap pod. “I was safe. It felt like I was safe.”

For healthy sleep tips and facts, check out Salud America’s! Why ‘World Sleep Day’ Should Be a Wake Up Call for Latinos.

By The Numbers By The Numbers

40

percent

of Latino kids participate in preschool programs vs. 53% of white kids.

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