Sleepy Duke

Duke is eliminating 8 am classes so sleepy students can get a little more shut-eye. Not much more, though. The university is adding 8:30 am classes.

Duke also plans to advise freshmen that sleep is important and tell them they need nine hours of sleep each night. Nine hours? It’s a university, not a convalescent home.

College students sleep an average of six to seven hours a night, down from seven to seven and a half in the 1980s.

. . . Duke wants students to consider adequate sleep a part of overall wellness. One idea is to do individual health assessments for each student and set goals for good nutrition, exercise and plenty of shut-eye.

Talk about your in loco parentis. Are Duke students really so eager to be mommied?

Kimberly thinks Duke officials are tired of listening to whiners who complain that classes aren’t available but won’t take anything that meets before 10 am or after 2 pm.

For night owls, I suggest a career in journalism. One of the best things about working for a morning newspaper was the hours. The day typically starts between 10 and 11 am.

About Joanne


  1. Wow, Duke must not have a classroom space crunch.

    In my department, we’re having to discuss options – none of them very desirable – to alleviate the classroom-allocation problems. We may go to having 7:30 am classes (which would be my first choice; I’m a morning person but I bet relatively few students would choose those), more evening classes, or Saturday block classes (meet for three or four hours every Saturday but not the rest of the week).

    Already there’s a huge problem with students showing up 20 minutes or a half-hour late – on a regular basis – for 8 am classes. I wonder, what happens when these students graduate and take jobs where they will be in trouble if they’re not present at 8 am on a regular basis?

  2. Teaching 8 a.m. classes is great. Few students sign up, many of those who do drop to a later section as soon as spots open up, and half of the students who stay registered never show up. I loved teaching differential equations this way; the other sections had 50 students, on the day before an exam I might have 20 show up, normal days attendance dropped below 15.

  3. M. J. Wise says:

    I’m a college junior in Industrial Engineering strongly dislike 8am classes and generally try to avoid them, or even 9am classes. Now, I have done two co-ops with GE — both I had to be -in- before 8am. It wasn’t a big deal for me. At least for me, college/dorm life and apartment/working life are much different. In college I typically am working on homework throughout the evning, whereas at work once I’m home, I don’t have any additional “homework.” In an apartment, I also can easily go to bed earlier and keep my own hours. Harder to do so in a dorm. Trust me.

  4. M. J. Wise says:

    Eeks, a major grammatical error in the first line of my first post here.

    I’m a college junior in Industrial Engineering *and* strongly dislike 8am classes….

    M. J. “Obviously not an English major” Wise

  5. This is pretty bad for Duke students actually. There are (supposedly, I haven’t actually checked with the registrar) many more 8:30 classes than there were 8:00 classes before the change. I know I’m not happy about it, I have 8:30 classes next semester, and I haven’t had an 8 since my first semester chemistry lab.

    As an aside, I don’t really think it’s valid to criticize students for struggling with making it to 8 a.m. classes–I don’t know what college was like when the regular posters here went, but I defy you to go to sleep before midnight at the earliest in my dorm, and that’s on a quiet night. We’ll be just fine when we get jobs and can pick our own apartments, and go to sleep when we like as opposed to when our hallmates like, thank you very much.

  6. Sleeping 8-9 hours a night? Except for slackers that never show up to class and get poor grades, I cannot think of anyone I know, myself included, that gets 8-9 hours a night on a regular basis. I average 5.5-6.5 hours a night, maybe an sleeping in an extra hour or two on Saturday morning.

    The earliest classes here are 8:30 and people usually complain about them. My earliest this semester was 9:30, which meant getting up at 8 so I could make my lunch and dinner before the 30 minute commute to school. Not a big deal. Grow up, people.

  7. Jordan: 8-9 hours of sleep is the medically recommended amount, based on the average person. I know the women in my family tend to need more sleep than that. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. When I was teaching at 8 a.m. I was going to bed no later than 9 p.m. for that reason. As Steven says above, that’s not really possible in a dorm.

  8. I’m also a college junior. I have thyroid problems that requires me to get at least 9 hours of sleep per night before I can even get out of bed. That’s almost impossible. I’ve had to drop a class so that I’m down to 3 with 12 hours. Homework usually requires me to be up til 10 or 11 pm. Also, I’ve had classes that actually schedule extra meetings between 10 and midnight. Hallmates and roommates who only get 4 or 5 hours can make it impossible to go to bed before 1 am. With my own apartment out of school, I won’t have to put up with roommates watching Terminator loudly 20 feet from my bed and refusing to turn the sound down. College and work are very different.

  9. TWS Garrison says:

    1) When I lived in dorms, quiet hours started no later than 9pm. During quiet hours there should be problem getting to sleep (unless your roomate is a jerk). The only conflict I can see is if your roomate needs to use his computer, but even that could be worked around.

    2)*Teaching* 7:30 classes was great. You’re forced to finish grading and preparation the night before, even if it means staying up until 2—there’s no margin to put off things until before classes. Result: consistent preparation and better teaching. Also, you start off the day alert and on your feet for a few hours, so you aren’t drowsy when the day begins for everyone else at 9:30.

  10. John Thacker says:

    Steven’s quite right. When I was at Duke (graduated ’01), except for the required writing seminars and the like, people just didn’t take 8 am classes, and tended to avoid 9 am classes.

    They do have a classroom shortage, because in response every department tried to schedule all their classes starting at 10 am or later. The net effect of this is actually more early classes offered.

  11. Yeah, I should have clarified that it’s bad if you don’t like early classes. Myself, I’m fine starting at 8:30 and being done at noon, as long as there are enough other people doing it so the dorms are quiet by 11:30 or midnight (hopefully, that will be the case next year). And more classes being offered at varied times is a good thing. My point was that you can easily get the impression that “those lazy Duke students are going to sleep in another hour,” and that isn’t so.

  12. I’m a college senior. I’m not a night owl by nature, but that’s just how college works. Most days I have various classes and activities until 4 p.m., and three nights a week I have two additional hours in the evening of music ensemble rehearsals.

    When you factor in 100 pages of reading per class per week (and often much more), it’s simply impossible NOT to work until 1 a.m. every night. Is it more important to wake up at a “real world” time or to make the most out of college, maximizing activities and getting the work done?

    I’m perfectly happy with my 10 a.m. starts, thank you very much. When I graduate and get a job, I’ll be perfectly happy waking up at 7.

  13. Bill Leonard says:

    This comment is from an old guy (aged 60):

    1. Keep on sniveling about how tough it is to manage to study and get to bed at night in order to make an 8:30 a.m class. My reply is a Bronx cheer.

    The point is, as a working-class kid who earned and paid every nickel for his own education at a state college, I was grateful for 7:30 a.m. classes. It allowed me to carry a full schedule, work nearly full-time most of the time to pay my way through in all respects, catch up in summer sessions, get to parties thrown by compatriots in my major, date, and occasionally, even get laid.

    2. So you have to work or study during weird hours? When I was in the Army (Vietnam-era) I can remember walking gaurd duty in the middle of the night, then showing up for duty at the 6 a.m. shakeout. That’s how it is sometimes. Deal with it.

    3. Like JJ, I had a career in journalism early in my career. Unlike JJ, I worked for an afternoon paper. That meant an early start every day, especially on weekends and holidays. The good news is, I was home in the early afternoon when my kids were young, so I was able to be there for sports practice, parent-teacher conferences, whatever. The downside was a weekend and holiday start around 5:30 to 6 a.m. and the reality of about two holidays a year on the dates (often long weekends) when the holiday actually fell.

    The other happy news if you’re in newspapering is that people expect that fishwrapper every day. That means a lot of people work a lot of weekends and holidays. And so it goes; you like the work, or you move on.

    Bottom line for those who are in college and complaining here, so what? Get used to real life. Learn to adjust your schedule accordingly.

    Or continue to whine and complain. But if you do that, don’t expect much sympathy or compassion from mature adults other than your mother.


    IT’S A SCHEDULING ISSUE! I frankly am dumbfounded by the people I am finding around the internet (to be fair, the commenters here are much more reasonable than the people making fools of themselves at this “Kimberly” and also at “The Cranky Professor”), but really, must we automatically assume the worst of the present generation of college students? I’ll gladly rescind this statement if anyone can tell me that they’ve looked at the schedules for Duke (from the registrar) over the past few years, compared them to fall 2004, and concluded that most students are going to classes later. Otherwise, frankly, you don’t know what you’re talking about when you talk about Duke scheduling.

  15. speedwell says:

    Maybe in this day and age it’s just normal to be an unemployed slacker in academia who happens to own a car. But my partner, who goes to school halfway across town, does not own a car. We can’t afford one right now. He rides the city bus.

    The bus goes miles out of the way and he has to make two transfers. He has to leave before 6:00 to get to school by 8:00, and that is exactly what he does. It isn’t easy, and it’s wasted time. (He can’t do his homework on the bus because he’s an animation student and all his assignments are either on the computer or on large format matboards.)

    Now, when I went to college I did notice that morning classes were less well attended. Oh, well, the free market… if you don’t work (get to class on time and buckle down), you don’t eat (get passing grades and graduate). What’s so hard about that?

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure all the lil kiddies will be snug in their beds for 8 hours a night.Man I hate to see em when they go to work

  17. Anonymous says:

    We’ll be just fine when we get jobs and can pick our own apartments, and go to sleep when we like as opposed to when our hallmates like, thank you very much.

    I see you plan to live in OZ

  18. 6:58-

    Are you telling me that people in normal apartment complexes blast music 15 feet from your bed at 4:30 in the morning on a Wednesday night (which happened here last week). Excuse my incredulity.


    What would you expect the university to do, say that they want students to get 5 hours of sleep? Hell, they might get sued for saying things like that. Read the story I posted above, the average student will start earlier as a result of the changes.

  19. 6:58-

    P.S. No, I plan on living in a house, like I did in high school when I had to be in class as early as 7:00 on some days, and always drove myself there on time. Do you care to make an argument, or just be condescending?

  20. Jay Leno gets the definitive last word on this:

    “At Duke University, officials are so worried about their students’ staying up till 1 am they eliminated 8 a.m. classes. Students couldn’t be happier. Now they can stay up till 3 A.M. ”