For remote Yale students, dealing with sleep disruptions due to time zone differences can be a learning challenge.
Meir Kryger, a Yale sleep expert and Yale School of Medicine physician, and Suman Baddam, Assistant Professor of Clinical Child Psychiatry, co-instruct the course “The Mystery of Sleep,” which explores the relationship between sleep and well-being. Disruptions to sleep schedules can negatively impact attention, memory and cognitive awareness. Kryger said that there are a number of students in his class who study remotely and must battle time differences.
“When my class starts, which is 4 o’clock in the afternoon, in Taiwan it’s like 4 o’clock in the morning,” Kryger said. “And the student is actually there wide awake and alert, participating in the class … They seem to be asking questions when it’s appropriate. Even though the schedule is crazy.”
Alongside the ways that inconsistent sleep schedules can harm students’ well-being, Baddam also said blue light can impact circadian rhythms, which raises another concern for Yalies taking virtual classes at late hours. He cited a study that showed that the light from a Kindle is enough to disrupt one’s sleep patterns in the evenings.
According to Healthline, circadian rhythms are changes in physical and behavioral patterns that follow a 24-hour cycle. These include the release of hormone melatonin, which makes people sleepy.
Remote students Mehmed Can Olgac ’22 and Sena Sugiono ’24 are located in Turkey and Indonesia, respectively. Because of the large time difference, Olgac and Sugiono must go to extreme measures to adjust.
“I have one class that ends at 1 a.m. in the morning on Mondays, so like by the end of that class I’m very exhausted,” Olgac said. “I don’t usually remember the second half of the class.”
Not only has Olgac faced difficulty staying awake for classes, he said his home responsibilities also make it more challenging to keep up with schoolwork and remember the commitments he has made. Yet despite the downsides of studying remotely, Sugiono said in an interview with the News that there are also some benefits. Since his schedule is “reversed,” he can work with no distractions.
“Now, I’m actually enjoying it because I get to concentrate on my studies in a very quiet and tranquil situation,” Sugiono wrote in a text message to the News. “Just [because] no one is up [from] 2-4 a.m.”
He told the News that he sleeps from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time, while juggling extracurriculars in addition to classes.
As a piece of advice to undergraduates abroad studying remotely, Baddam suggested creating a consistent schedule for oneself to avoid sporadic sleep disturbances.
“They should basically have their sleep time for their biological day as a shift worker and just stay up all night for the whole week,” he told the News, adding that while “it’s still bad,” it is less harmful than constantly changing one’s sleep schedule.
He also noted that regularly getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night is something that any undergraduate can do to enhance their learning, even if they think they are doing fine, as “it’s hard to recognize how tired we are.”
Kyrger and Baddam teach their Cognitive Science course on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
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