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In a similar category, Penn ranked 4th in total sleep time averaging 6.72 hours per weekday.

Credit: Svein Halvor Halvorsen | Courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0

What was once implied by student culture has now been proven by data — Penn undergraduates have bad sleeping habits.

Fitness tracker company Jawbone recently published a report of the sleep data it collected from about 18,500 undergraduate students at 137 universities since 2013. Penn students ranked number two on the list of colleges with the latest weekday bedtimes, with an average weekday bedtime of 1:22 a.m., only surpassed by Columbia at 1:26 a.m.

In the category of sleep time, which tracks when students actually fall asleep in bed to when they wake up, Penn fared marginally better. It was ranked fourth, with an average weekday sleep time of 6.72 hours. The average weekday sleep time of all schools surveyed was 7.03 hours.

Rising Engineering sophomore Weiwei Meng can attest to the findings of the survey. During the past school year, she said, her sleep schedule was “pretty bad.”

“I would sleep around maybe 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. and not wake up until at least 12:00 p.m., and then nap again in the afternoon after class,” she said.

Rising Wharton sophomore Kristin Li had a similar weekday sleep schedule.

“I usually wake up at 9:00 a.m. and go to sleep somewhere between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.,” she said.

Meng attributed her late bedtime to her academic workload. Her habit of napping during the day, she said, also affected her inability to sleep earlier in the night. She noted that many of her peers also had bad sleep schedules — in her freshman dorm, there was regularly “a whole group of people in the common room” that would stay up as late as she did.

For Li, sleeping late was more a result of social and extracurricular obligations.

“During the day, I’d rather spend time with friends, and then do my work really late at night,” she said. “I don’t think my academic workload was too bad, to be honest. It’s definitely a contributing factor, but [my sleep schedule] was mostly because freshman year, I tried a bunch of random [activities] I was interested in.”

While bad sleep schedules are common at Penn, they are not ubiquitous. Rising Engineering sophomore Will Lowe said he usually got at least 10 hours of shut-eye each night at school.

“I usually go to bed at school between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., and wake up at 8:00 a.m,” he said. “If I went to bed much later, I would just wake up in the morning and not feel great.”

Lowe said he would usually try to get his homework done right away so he didn’t have to stay up late. He recalled seeing other kids in the library late at night doing homework and thinking that staying up so late would be “quite painful.”

“I’m sure somewhere else in Penn there are kids who go to bed like me, but we’re a pretty small group,” Lowe said. “I haven’t run into anyone else who really goes to bed around my time.”

In addition to lowered test performance, lowered concentration and increased fatigue, which have been linked to lack of sleep by numerous scientific studies, bad sleep schedules create additional inconveniences in students’ daily lives.

“I find it hard to eat with my sleep schedule, especially with the whole dining plan,” Meng said. “When I wake up, the dining halls are often closed, and I have to find my own food.”

Jawbone’s fitness data also pointed to a correlation between college rankings and late bedtimes. Columbia (ranked fourth in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report) and Penn (ninth) had students that slept the latest on weekdays, followed by Stanford (tied for fourth) and Duke (eighth).

Li acknowledged that there was a “competitive pressure” at Penn that might cause students at top colleges to sleep later. However, she said, it was more of a personal choice for her to sleep late due to the way she managed her social life.

Meng also agreed that there was a hardworking streak among students at Penn that led to later bedtimes.

“It’s something to do with the competitive nature [of Penn],” she said. “People don’t really want to fall behind, so they work really hard to stay on top of things — and for some people, that just means having to stay up longer.”

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