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Tackling the Sleepless College Culture

Photo by Robert Bye via Unsplash

University life can get pretty wild. Between tailgates, midterms, clubs, part-time jobs, ragers, and (how could we forget?) classes, students are nearly always pressed for time. How do college kids find the time to flourish both in the classroom and beyond? Sleep is typically the first thing on the chopping block, leading to a culture that praises constant motion and scorns the stationary. 

Oftentimes, staying up until five to grind out that paper can feels strangely rewarding. It’s so uniquely college: an experience like no other that feels all at once terrible and wonderfully surreal. Similarly, there’s a sense of pride that comes with throwing back that double shot of canned Starbucks espresso around 1AM or 2AM. (Shoutout to those beloved dorm vending machines.) In taking these actions, we hope that we’re helping to manifest the future we want. Do the research. Conquer the exams. Make the connections. Land the job. However, what we’re actually subscribing to seems far more problematic – a mindset in which personal wellbeing is not just overlooked, but is entirely irrelevant. 

While every individual’s relationship with sleep varies, adults typically function best when they’re catching Z’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-10 hours nightly. However, sleep duration estimates from the University of Georgia show most university students on the low end of the spectrum: 6-6.9 hours. 

Cutting an hour here or two hours there doesn’t sound too impactful, but the importance of sleep runs deep. Research shows that well-rested students exhibit better memory and motor functions than their less-rested counterparts. Here we see a paradox. The extra hours students stay up studying might actually be working against them.

Failing to hit the pillow for long enough can lead to a heightened risk for accidents (shocker!), increased stress, elevated weight, and even a weaker immune system. In order to combat these trends, experts suggest establishing a solid nighttime routine, avoiding large meals before sleep, and exercising for roughly one hour each day.

None of this sounds too great, but it would be naive of me to think that this will change anytime soon. For now, and probably for several decades into the future, college students will remain an entirely different beast. They’ll party hard, cling to 11:59pm due dates, network like crazy, and consume unprecedented amounts of caffeine. If you’re lucky, and I sincerely hope you are, you might even have fun doing it. All I ask is that you don’t lose sight of yourself along the way. 

Photo by Robert Bye via Unsplash

  • What’s your take?

    • I live for the grind
    • I can’t function without my 8 hours

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Written by Megan Pontin

Enthusiastic word-collector, avid pancake-consumer, and experienced hammock-lounger. Student at Cornell University.

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