High School Student finds riding Her bike helps Her Sleep

Emma Wang is a 17 year old HIgh School from Northern California who received a project to make a “Habit Change Journal” from her AP Psychology teacher. As a member of her school’s track and field team she used this project as a way to start her training. Emma had this to say, “I wanted to start getting back into shape for my upcoming track season while not putting too much strain on my knees and shins. Biking seemed like an accessible and decent alternative, since my dad has had our khs mountain bike in the garage for years. Only in recent years have I been tall enough to use it. I used to use it to bike to work, and didn’t have the time to use it otherwise. As a flat footed athlete with other pre-existing conditions, I am incredibly susceptible to injuries when training, so I have to be especially careful during preseason to prevent shin splints and over-training my knees. It is common knowledge that biking is easier on the knees than pounding it out on the pavement or track, so I wanted to give it a go. In addition, I was getting very little sleep as a first semester high school senior balancing academics, extracurriculars, and college apps. My hope was that more regular biking could help improve my sleep quality.”

Below is Her project report.

Reflection #1
What habit did you choose and why?

I usually lock myself in my room after I get home from school, and am too busy to go out and get some physical activity in the afternoon, so barring rainy weather, I want to develop a habit of going on high intensity bike rides daily of around 5 miles distance to see if it can help with my sleep quality. Because of academics, extracurriculars, on top of college apps, I have been getting a lot less sleep than I used to. As a result, I hope to improve my sleep quality so that even though I may not be sleeping enough, having good quality sleep will still help my overall performance.

How do you plan to implement your new habit?

I plan on setting a daily alarm at 4:15pm, telling me to get ready to go out on a bike ride, so I have at least a full half hour before the sun sets. I will use my apple watch and a 3rd party app to measure my sleep statistics.

What sort of reinforcement (positive and negative) do you plan to use?

I plan on rewarding myself everyday that I do go out on a five mile bike ride with dessert after dinner, while if I do not manage to go out due to my own fault, my negative reinforcement was having to eat a lemon.

Reflection #2

How is it going?

My intensive bike rides so far make me feel more energized after school, because usually I am so tired that I have to take a nap after school, which usually ends up with me being unconscious for two to three hours. Being able to stay awake allows me to get more work and studying done.

Has it been more challenging than you anticipated?

It has been challenging to get back home before the sun sets. Now that dusk is before 5pm, it is challenging to get out of the house early enough and control my time so that I can get home before it is concerningly dark. The route I take is downhill on the way out but completely uphill on the way back. This means that I have to pedal with much more force when I am already tired.

Have there been any setbacks?

The weather is a barrier to me being able to go out and ride. My parents don’t want me to risk getting sick, and rainy days are dangerous for bikers due to the limited visibility and uncertain terrain.

Reflection #3

How is it going?

I like how I can feel my thigh muscles getting stronger everyday, and my energy level has greatly improved. I used to have to have a caffeine input after lunch to stay awake, but now, I do not feel the urge to sleep even after my bike rides.

Have you appreciated the changes? Do you think you made a good choice?

Yes, I appreciate the change I made to go biking since I feel physically stronger, and my energy stamina has improved. I want to continue this change even after the 10 days for this journal are over.

Did you need to adjust your reinforcers?

Considering that I have been religiously going on my intense bike rides, I feel that this journal is a good enough reinforcement. The only day I have taken off so far was due to the weather, which is out of my control. I want to change my reinforcement to doing at least half an hour of physical activity every day that I am not biking, be it dancing, workout, or diabolo practice.

Reflection # 4-8

Updates on how it’s going

Since finals are coming up, I have been very stressed out. I also am taking the Sports and Exercise Psychology class at Modesto Junior College, and that semester is finishing up, so I have to study for that class’s final and papers. However, I am still able to go out for a bike ride first to help me calm down before getting to work.

It rained on day 5 and 6 of my 10 day habit change journey, so I was unable to go out for a bike ride on those days. I stayed home and did homework or studied.

Being able to go out and bike helps me de-stress, especially since I bring snacks with me. I have been stopping by different benches around Lake Elizabeth to just admire the view, do some self reflection, and indulge in a little bit of sugar that will most likely be burnt off by the time I get home.

The path I take is usually all the way from MSJ to one loop around Lake Elizabeth and back. However, I found a new path that goes along the train tracks. I followed them and roughly a mile along the path is Paseo Padre Parkway. The path continues so after following it for another mile, I was able to reach Washington Blvd. I never knew what the area around the intersection of Washington Blvd and Driscoll was, so being able to see the new houses, older buildings, and open space was really cool.

Reflection #9

How are things wrapping up for you?

I have appreciated this journal being a great source of motivation for me to get into the habit of biking. Even though I was unable to go biking as often as I liked mostly due to the weather, I know I will continue to go on bike rides after school, as I have seen many of the benefits that it can bring. While I originally wanted to see if bike rides would be able to help improve my sleep, seeing the effects on my mood and energy levels is a clear sign that I should continue.

Reflection #10

Was this a good exercise?

Yes! It was literally a good exercise for me, and I enjoyed the experience. While I had a bit of trouble getting myself out of the house at the beginning, I ended up looking forward to my daily bike rides on days that it wasn’t raining and I didn’t have to study for an assessment.

Do you think you could use this process again?

I want to set up a regular workout routine, and using this process can help me achieve that. Building the habit of going for exercise, this habit of getting back into some sort of physical activity was the first step. I hope to expand on this and start getting back into running again, and maybe progress into more HIIT and full on workouts to condition for my upcoming track season.

Did this reinforce some of what you learned in psychology?

In class, we learned that us students have been conditioned for years to develop some habits that make it easier for teachers and administrators to do their jobs. Knowing that I was able to condition myself to enjoy a new habit while providing benefits to myself in multiple ways feels good. Since my habit was physical, we experienced more dopamine and had a better overall mood. Since I was getting better quality sleep, I also felt a lot more well rested and felt less stressed despite a greater workload at the end of the semester.


Day#/ Date

Bike Ride Day Before(Y/N) reason if no bike ride

hours of sleep

% Restful Sleep

1/ December 9th     Y                                                                                                     4:24      64

2/ December 10th

N -> Rain



3/ December 11th




4/ December 12th




5/ December 13th

N -> Rain



6/ December 14th

N -> Rain



7/ December 15th




8/ December 16th




9/ December 17th

N -> studied in Ms. Dotson’s room until sunset, too dark to stay out



10/ December 18th

N -> Physics project and after school engagement in Milpitas



Average restful sleep for bike ride days: 79.8% Average restful sleep for non bike ride days: 75%

Causes of error or variation:

I slept a varying number of hours each day, and the body tends to prioritize restful sleep when sleep deprivation is apparent. Since I switched over to physical activity for reinforcement, it is hard to tell if the bike ride itself is beneficial to my sleep quality.