Classes have started again, which means an ever increasing load of work to finish. Trying to complete assignments before their deadline often forces students to stay up late, leading to sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is a loss of the required amount of sleep. Its effects include irritability, lack of motivation, forgetfulness, lack of coordination and anxiety and signs of depression. The toll of sleep deprivation can also affect a student’s physical health.
“Lack of sleep is a health issue that can affect your mood, memory, performance, judgement and health. A new study reports that severe sleep loss jolts the immune system into action, reflecting the same type of immediate response show during exposure to stress,” said Anne Lambrecht, Director of Counseling, Health, and Wellness.
Being in a collegiate environment can also lead to students staying up late to complete projects and assignments. This can become a slippery slope of staying up late and sleeping in, which in turn forces students to stay up late again completing homework. By constantly engaging in this cycle, students are slowly forcing themselves into a state of sleep deprivation.
“The following all contribute to the culture of not getting enough sleep in college: college scheduling & activities (early & late night obligations, variable class schedule and late night social life), alcohol, caffeine and energy drinks, poor sleep behaviors (lack of a regular sleep schedule) and technology. Research has shown that both high school and college students demonstrate a 1-3 hour sleep deficit on school nights,” says Lambrecht.
Students can feel overwhelmed with the stresses of daily life in college, and sleep is often the activity cut in order to make time for other activities. By juggling time between classes, extracurricular activities and sleep, students can feel added stress in order to make everything work.
“I feel that college in general not only magnifies the mental stresses students feel, but the physical stresses as well, especially with those who participate on a team or club that require physical endurance and stamina,” said Austin Popp (’21).
Students can combat sleep deprivation in a number of ways. Taking a nap is one of the most common ways students get more sleep. By napping, students can gain more energy and improve their mental performance. However, students should also be aware of when and how long they nap for.
“Naps longer than 45 minutes (after you enter deep sleep) may actually leave you feeling more groggy and tired! Avoid late afternoon and evening naps, which can disrupt night sleep,” said Lambrecht.
Waking up at the same time every day, avoiding allnighters, regular exercise, limiting caffeine/alcohol intake and creating a positive sleep environment are other ways students can combat sleep deprivation. By engaging in these activities, students can take control of their sleeping habits and turn away from sleep deprivation.
Besides these activities, students also use their own tips and tricks to get more sleep on campus. “Try to be in as little light as possible and avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bed. Perhaps read a book in a dim light room before sleep,” said Jon Groening (’20).
“I personally combat sleep deprivation by setting times to go to bed and wake up, and sticking to it. I often have trouble falling asleep, as I am a light sleeper, but if I keep my fan on, it will drown out ambient noise in my dorm,” said Popp.
If you or someone you know is dealing with sleep deprivation, students are encouraged to take a sleep assessment test at sleeptostayawake.org, as well as following the tips given and meeting with a medical or counseling professional to get help.