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Sleep and the Student

Sleep and the Student

Students are among the most sleep-deprived people in the United States.

Elizabeth Hoyt

April 15, 2014

You need a 4.0 on your exam, which you have to stay up all night studying for, just in case you missed something in the review. That’s understandable. Then, it’s Amy’s birthday so you have to go out– it’d be rude not to. Plus, you have a quiz, a paper due and that date you’ve been anxious about.

No worries, you’ll just load up on coffee, Red Bull and some 5-Hour Energy. Maybe later you’ll have time for a power nap.

It’s OK, you’re young, right? Wrong.

It’s a common conundrum students have been facing for years: how can I do it all?

Most likely, the quest for success and social excellence leads to one little need –sleep– remaining unfulfilled. Except that “little need” isn’t little in the least. Students are among the most sleep-deprived and the most tired people in the United States.

According to Medical News Today, a mere 30 percent of students get the amount of sleep they actually need, around eight hours per night.

20 percent of students pull all-nighters at least once a month and 35 percent stay up past three in the morning once or more weekly.

Worse yet, more than 60 percent of college students have “disturbed sleep-awake patterns,” feeling the need to take drugs or alcohol to stay awake, go to sleep or in hopes to “regulate” their sleep cycles.

In addition to being just plain unhealthy, the dangers of this leading to addiction are overwhelming.

“Stress about school and life keeps 68 percent of students awake at night – 20 percent of them at least once a week,” says a study as reported on Medical News Today.

Another study reported on the same web site found that “diminishing sleep in order to study was actually associated with doing more poorly on a test, quiz, or homework (the opposite of the students’ intent).”

Furthermore, “young college students may think their sleep quality is better than it is.” Why?

Factors like “roommates, dorm noise, fraternity activities, and academic stress make college a novel sleeping environment” can attribute to difficulty sleeping.

Studies also find correlations between student’s poor sleep and life conflicts, poor grades, depression, ADHD and a variety of other behavioral, mental and emotional health disturbances.

Unsurprisingly, for students reporting issues, professionals often find their sleep quality is lacking.

In fact, "hours of sleep per school night were significantly positively associated with GPA and level of motivation, and significantly negatively associated with clinically significant levels of emotional disturbance and ADHD. Each additional hour of sleep on school nights lowered the odds of scoring in the clinically significant range of emotional disturbance and ADHD by 25 percent and 34 percent, respectively. "

If you feel you’re having such issues, consult with your medical health care professional or contact your campus counselling center.

Here’s the bottom line: you can’t ignore your basic needs. It’s all too common in student life today to give up sleep in order to accomplish other tasks.

Your physical health is much more important than any assignment or social event. It may not seem like it at the time, but there will be more work and more parties for the rest of your life. Nobody wants to feel like a failure, but you’re failing yourself if you ignore your body and its needs.

Newsflash! Even though you may think you’re doing it all, you’re bound to break or, at the very least, spread yourself thin enough that you’re doing it all, just not well. There’s really no point in doing everything poorly, is there?

Why push yourself to the limit? After all, there’s no point in living excessively if you look–and feel–like the walking dead.

The truth is, you can do it all, just within reason. The key is balance, which can be achieved through time management and simple organization. Much of what we cram for or scramble for in the end can be avoided with some simple planning ahead.

Here are some recommended tips to help develop a healthy sleep schedule, as detailed on Medical News Today according to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM):

• Get a Minimum of 9 Hours of Sleep Each Night

• Following a Consistent Nightly Routine

• A Full Night’s Sleep Each Night

• Avoiding Caffeine and Stimulant-Containing Medications Prior to Bedtime

• A Relaxing Atmosphere at Bedtime

• Avoid pulling all-nighters or staying up to do homework or activities

• Avoid large meals before bedtime

• Never go to bed hungry

• Avoid high levels of exercise within six hours of going to bed

• Go to sleep in a quiet, dark and cool atmosphere

• Schedule yourself to wake up at the same time each morning

So, the next time you find yourself being pushed to the brink of exhaustion, stop and think: what is it really for? Is this necessary? Chances are, in the grand scheme of life, the answer is absolutely not.

Choose sleep, choose your health.

Have you found a way to do it all without sacrificing your health?


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