Sleeping through college

Callie Fruit

Associating your bed with activities other than sleeping or sex can make it harder to fall asleep. Some ways to avoid this are not having a TV in the bedroom and not using your bed for work-related tasks. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ALLIEY BENDER | SUMMER KENT

Credit: Steve Schirra

* * * Correction: Michael Moore was misidentified as the assistant director of clinical psychology for the National Sleep Foundation. Moore is the assistant director of the Kent State Psychological Clinic. The error occurred in the editing process. * * *

A video on YouTube’s Web site titled “Students Sleeping in College” depicts what sleep means to many college students — three students sitting in a lecture hall as they drift in and out of sleep; their heads nod downward only to be stopped by a sudden upward jerk when they realize they dozed off in class.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, college students are just as sleep deprived as shift workers, such as doctors, pilots, firefighters and construction workers.

Michael Moore, assistant director of clinical psychology for the foundation, talked about the dangers of putting one’s body through an irrational sleep schedule.

“Going more than a couple of nights without a full seven to nine hours of sleep can cause serious problems such as depression, weakened immune system and difficulty with logical reasoning,” he said.

Ironically, infamous all-nighters — where students pump themselves full of caffeine and information – can be more harmful than helpful. Without the right amount of sleep, the mind cannot access and utilize information.

“College students expend a lot of mental energy on classes,” Moore said. “They need more sleep, not less.”

However, there are ways to avoid sleep deprivation in college.

First, when it comes to caffeine, alcohol and sleep aids such as Tylenol PM, everything in moderation is a good policy to follow.

“Use acutely and not as a Band-aid to cover-up underlying problems, such as stress from a heavy workload,” Moore said.

Additionally, afternoon naps are a favorite substitute for a full night’s sleep.

Although the sleep foundation reports research is inconsistent when it comes to determining the effectiveness of a long nap opposed to a short nap, both lengths result in improved abilities such as memory and alertness.

Lastly, do not work in bed. According to the foundation, the bed should only be used for sleep and sex.

“By taking work to bed, it weakens a person’s association of bed with sleep, making it more likely to be worrying about school or work rather than falling asleep,” Moore said.

According to a 2003 Psychology Today article, nighttime activities reflect on daytime alertness. This is why it is important to not only get enough sleep for finals week but to consistently get enough sleep.

“The best thing you can do is maintain good sleep hygiene — get on a regular sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day,” Moore said.

With dorm rooms and roommates, however, sometimes even the best intentions to get a good night’s sleep can be interrupted.

The solution? Several RAs say the answer lies in making a resident agreement in the beginning of the year and sticking to it. When a disagreement occurs, both rommates can see what the agreement says.

Contact general assignment reporter Callie Fruit at [email protected].