Sleep on It

It’s 2:30AM on a Monday morning, and I have class at 9:00. Instead of being in bed, though, I’m dragging myself across campus to the Snoddy Computer Lab, which is open 24/7. It’s quite convenient for students like myself who spend their nights (and early mornings) finishing essays and homework, and on any given day, it’s not uncommon to see other tired, glassy-eyed students on the verge of napping on their keyboards.

Sleep deprivation is prevalent in college culture, but many students don’t take it seriously. Maybe the disregard for healthy sleeping habits comes from one of the most popular archetypes of college students in movies: a person in sweats and a hoodie with heavy eyelids and an energy drink in hand, or half-awake and drooling on their textbooks in the library. If finals are approaching in such movies, the library is packed with students studying under blankets and with a variety of energy shots and protein bars scattered around them.

College students and a lack of sleep seem to go hand-in-hand, and I’ve been warned of the negative effects by informational posters and bulletin boards. So why do students still view sleep as a lesser priority?

Many students say that they stay up late to finish homework, some because they’ve procrastinated, and others because they have so many tasks piled on top of each other. Some students are taking time away from sleeping in order to relax; they’re watching Netflix and Hulu or playing videogames. Still others say that even when they aren’t awake for any particular reason, they know the minimum hours of sleep they can get by with the next day. I myself rely on generous naps throughout the day in order to get things done after class and into the night. Sleep isn’t made out to be a necessity in college. There are always more pressing matters to take care of, and if we don’t know what we’re really sacrificing, the importance of sleep takes a back seat in our minds.

Professors and students at Hendrix have worked on their own sleep lab for years; the psychology departments page describes their work as, “examining the relationship of sleepiness to a wide variety of other things: hunger, burnout (severe stress responses), social cognitions (such as blaming others when things go badly for you), moral decisions, academic performance, mating choices, and the way we process information.”

Furthermore, they note that sleep is important because it’s something we spend 1/3 of our lives doing. Students’ sleep tends to get worse as they enter college, and it stays that way. It’s also been found that poor sleep leads to a decline in GPA.

Any student that’s had trouble getting to class after staying up all night knows that poor sleep impacts academic performance. It obviously isn’t the only factor that determines how well students do in class, but it’s a simple necessity that many of us take for granted. Even if we know that we need a healthier routine, it can be hard to prioritize sleep.

Over the past semester, Dr. Kennedy, Dr. Peszka, and Jane Henderson have worked on the Learn to Sleep Well, Sleep Well to Learn workshop. It is a process that occurs over six weeks, and it aims to help students improve their sleep. The second wave of the workshop will continue this semester, starting March 10. The first meeting is at 2:00-2:30 pm in Worsham, and other than being over 18, they say the only requirement is a desire to improve sleep quality. If you’re like me, you know that you should be sleeping better—the workshop is a chance for students to find a feasible way to do so.

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