Do I really have to sleep in college? - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Campus Life
March 13, 2017

Do I really have to sleep in college?

Talking about sleep with college students tends to be one of those “But mom…” topics. Ask any college student and they will gladly give you an account of their sleeplessness, wearing it like a badge of honor. Somewhere along the line, not sleeping became cool.

But studies show that sleep deprivation is anything but cool. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that a shocking 70% of college students are receiving insufficient amounts of sleep. If you want further proof of this, just ask your 10 closest friends; most likely over half of them will admit to a lack of sleep or, at least, chronic sleepiness.

We’ve all heard it over and over again since high school - the average sleep necessary for young adults is 8 hours or more. Countless studies confirm it, yet college students tend to feel a special exemption.

Some college students blame the amount of homework they receive as the reason they lack sleep. Others claim that they are a night owl. Still others venture to assert that they don’t need that much sleep.

Many college students try to balance their lack of sleep during the week with more sleep on the weekends. But the NIH study showed that if a student loses 1-3 hours of sleep each school night, he will be experiencing a sleep deficit of over 15 hours by the time he reaches the weekend. This would require the student to sleep almost one entire day.

Unfortunately, binge sleeping on the weekend does not fix the problem. In fact, it may compound it. The NIH study showed that a regular sleep schedule on the weekends should only include one extra hour of sleep per day. Oversleeping will not fix the sleep deprivation problem; it will only perpetuate feelings of insomnia.

The key: regularity.

The NIH suggests regular sleep will produce alertness, stable emotional health, overall physical health, and better focus, grades, learning, memory, and perception of effort. If a student were to set a bedtime of 11, they could sleep until 7, giving themselves the required 8 hours of sleep - this is what I do.

I can already hear it, “But, but, but I can’t get my homework done by 11!” My response – “Have you tried?” I used to be a person who would stay up until all hours of the night to complete homework assignments, but this was usually a result of poor time management during the day.

Part of establishing a regular sleep routine requires a student to be honest about their time use throughout the day. Many students don’t start homework until 8 p.m. or later, not because they couldn’t start earlier, but because they procrastinated until that time. Yes, there are things like work or night class that may push your homework time off. However, there are little bits of time throughout the day that can be redeemed more productively than checking Facebook or lying in bed.

I know from personal experience that if I allow myself proper sleep, my academic performance improves. Better sleep means that the hours I am awake are filled with more productive pursuits. Also, getting sufficient sleep helps me cultivate a positive attitude toward my work.

Questions to consider:

  • How do I use my time throughout the day? What is my class schedule? How much time do I spend on the Internet? How much time to I spend with friends?
  • Do I have the discipline to use my time wisely throughout the day so I can commit to a bed time? (If you answer “no” to this, now is a good time to work on discipline.)
  • Do I trust that if I take the time to care for my body, God will allow me the time and productivity to accomplish all my tasks?

I would encourage you to honestly evaluate your life and incorporate a regular sleep schedule. The benefits are definitely worth it!

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” -Psalms 4:8