DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Preventing yawning in teenagers - and one way to do it is to take a nap at school. And there's some public high schools in New Mexico actually providing napping pods for students. Here's NPR's Patti Neighmond.
PATRICIA NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: They look like egg-shaped space capsules.
HANNAH VANDERKOOY: You lay in it, and it starts to recline.
NEIGHMOND: That's Hannah Vanderkooy, a senior at Las Cruces High School.
VANDERKOOY: The shell comes over, and it just kind of envelops you in like a really nice darkness. But it's not too dark - you know? And they have, like, little soft lights behind you and, like, soft music that plays.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NEIGHMOND: Legs elevated, lower back relaxed - all designed to induce calm and hopefully a little sleep. The 20-minute interlude in a very busy, stressful day is a welcome relief for Hannah, who typically gets only four to five hours of sleep a night.
VANDERKOOY: Being a senior, I have to apply for scholarships. And I have to do my homework, and I have to do all this. And so my sleep cycle has just kind of become this night owl life, and it's just kind of the new normal.
NEIGHMOND: Hannah says she's not alone. Lots of her friends are on a similar schedule. Dr. Nitun Verma is a sleep specialist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He says a nap can't substitute for a good night's sleep, but it can certainly help.
NITUN VERMA: A short nap for a teenager can give a boost to memory and attention during the day. It can increase school performance.
NEIGHMOND: Nurse practitioner Linda Summers works with Las Cruces high schools. It was her idea to apply for a federal health grant to buy pods for four schools. They cost $14,000 apiece. She says they're worth it because lack of sleep makes students more easily upset, anxious and even angry. In these cases, she will often write a prescription for the napping pod.
LINDA SUMMERS: You need to do this twice a week. You need to do this before you have a fight with somebody or you have a test and you haven't slept.
NEIGHMOND: And, Summers says, teachers also recommend students take a short nap.
VANDERKOOY: I was falling asleep in one of my classes. And my teacher, instead of scolding me, he was like, you really, really need to go and take a nap - because it's not really like me.
NEIGHMOND: After 20 minutes in the pod, Hannah says she returned to class refreshed.
VANDERKOOY: And I came back. And I was awake and attentive and took my notes and, (laughter) you know, just like a normal class.
NEIGHMOND: Teachers and school nurses report the pods are a big success, sort of a therapeutic study hall that helps students focus better when they're in the classroom. And nurse Linda Summers says the pod experience just makes the kids feel better.
SUMMERS: If you don't fall asleep - if you just zone out, which a lot of the kids say they - that happens to them, they also feel refreshed and calm.
NEIGHMOND: Summers is also a researcher at New Mexico State University. She recently did a study asking 100 students who said they were agitated or upset about something how they felt before and after spending 20 minutes in the napping pod.
SUMMERS: They all felt more rested. They all felt happier or more in control of their emotions - after just 20 minutes.
NEIGHMOND: So not only are the pods a place to catch up on sleep, they also provide a small oasis of calm for stressed-out students. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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