The Wellness Center at Snow Health Center has displayed a large black panel advocating the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Posted on the panel are resource brochures and tips for a consistent night’s sleep.
One piece of information missing is learning how to balance sleep with the rollercoaster of being a college student.
Balancing sleep with school, work and friends is a decision some college students have to make on a daily basis. This can be seen as a problem with no solution, because each factor is interdependent on the other for success. Too often, students are forced to choose an activity at the expense of sleep.
Business management major Keith Blackwell admits to choosing fun and school over sleep too much, and it’s a habit he needs to break. Sleep in college, where he sleeps about seven to eight hours a day, is easier than sleep high school, when he woke up at 6 a.m.
“If I choose fun over sleep, I lose sleep, but that’s the sacrifice I have to make,” Blackwell, 22, said. “If I choose study over sleep, I’ll change the time I want to get up. If I do have to wake up early, I need to get my rest or I won’t function throughout the day.”
Few people are satisfied with less than six hours of sleep. According to the Wellness Center’s panel, consistency is as important as enough rest. If a person sleeps two hours earlier or two hours later than usual, it results in the same quality of sleep if they’ve slept less than six hours.
Some of the Wellness Center panel’s tips for consistent sleep are to expose oneself to bright light in the morning and to not take late afternoon or early evening naps. Another helpful tip is not to alter the weekend sleep schedule by more than two hours from the weekday sleep schedule.
“It depends on what time I have to wake up,” Blackwell said. ‘If I have to get up at 8 a.m., I won’t even go out because it’s pointless. It would be bad the next day. If I have to go to school at 9 a.m., I go to bed around 12 a.m.”
Consistent sleep for a college student can be further complicated by an unpredictable roommate. To control sleep with a roommate, the Wellness Center’s panel says to set ground rules with the roommate by understanding what factors impact the roommate’s sleep and to express your own thoughts. The ground rules should be based on friends visiting the room, lights out and quiet hours.
It took Blackwell about a week to get used to his roommate being awake while he was trying to sleep when he lived in Putnam Hall.
“Talk to your roommate in a friendly manner,” Blackwell said. “Tell him, like I did, to stay as quiet as possible. Come to an agreement, and you should be fine. Or buy some earplugs.”
One student, electronic media and film major Joseph Ratke, has had hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), which has set off insomnia since he was 8-years-old. He gets about 3-6 hours of sleep at night.
“I’ve been staying up until 3-4 a.m. in the morning and getting up for school since I was 8-years-old, so it’s old habits for me,” Ratke, 18, said. “I am a night person anyway, and I try to take later classes.”
According to the Wellness Center’s panel, if sleep does not occur within 10-15 minutes, do something relaxing, like reading, drawing or studying.
“I never fall asleep within 15 minutes,” Ratke said. “It takes me 45 minutes to an hour to fall asleep. I just lie in my bed and think about things. I have done stuff that’s relaxing, but it’s still the same thing, so I don’t even waste my time.”
Many of the panel’s tips would not be helpful to people unless they know their own limits or usual sleep times. One of the tips for consistent sleep is to go to bed and wake up every day within one hour of the person’s usual sleep and wake-up time.
“It’s different for different people,” Ratke said. “It depends on your body clock. It depends on how much sleep you need to regenerate yourself.”