College Students Speak Out About Their Sleep Struggles

The #SleepRevolution College Tour - which reached over 300 college campuses this spring - encouraged students to prioritize sleep and wellness over fatigue and burnout, particularly during stressful midterm and final exam periods.  

These students have been vocal about the challenges of sleep on college campuses, writing over 75 blogs about sleep deprivation, classroom stress and the culture of exhaustion. Their comments paint a stark picture of life as an overworked, worn out college student, and demonstrate the need for a Sleep Revolution at their schools. Here are just a few such observations. 

Their insights highlight the precarious balancing act of academics, social life and sleep:

As a college student, I am told that I can only have two of the following three: enough sleep, good grades, and a social life. From my perspective, these three components of college life are difficult to balance. When I need to cram for an exam, I stay up all night and get less sleep. When I want to stay out with friends but have to get up early to study, I compromise my sleep. -- From "The Sleep Revolution College Tour Comes To Boston College" by Michelle Peffen of Boston College.

Wake up at 6am. Get to the gym by 7am. Work from 9am to 2pm. Homework from 2pm to 5pm. Class from 6pm to 8pm. Cook and eat dinner by 9pm. More homework or just trying to catch up on life from 9pm to midnight. Finally, 1am bedtime...This is me trying to balance my life as a college student, working as a graduate assistant, and trying to make time for my boyfriend and my dog. -- From "How I Overcome College Student Sleep Struggles" by Tara Wong of UNLV.

A mantra exists that between sleep, good grades and a social life, college students must pick two and cut their losses on the third. It’s not a matter of being inefficient or dawdling during the day; we just have too many things on our plates. If sleeping more means doing less—whether that involves cutting back on extracurricular activities, dropping a job or not going out—many, myself included, are unwilling to make the concession. Sleep feels like the most dispensable of the three. -- From "The College Mantra: Sleep Is For The Weak" by Carly Stern of Duke University.

They point out the pervasive belief among college students that being well-rested isn't "cool."

Split between the demands of “Work” and “Play,” there is no room for “Rest.” Many students admit that rest feels like failure, a marker of incompetence and underachievement. At college, “Rest” has the greatest stigma of all. -- From "The College Sleep Stigma" by Riley Griffin of Duke University.

There is a persistent and dangerous myth believed by college students across the country: sleep isn’t cool. Not getting enough sleep is increasingly becoming a norm for the average college student. These sleep habits — rising early to go to class groggy, and staying up late to study, socialize or party — are straight up unhealthy. This sleep deprivation lifestyle has not only become common, but also expected and weirdly admired. -- From "Dear College Students: Stop Bragging About Not Getting Enough Sleep" by Jessica Beeli of San Diego State.

I’ve even encountered students who think that getting the appropriate seven to nine hours of sleep a night is lazy. I know students who have given up on getting quality sleep because they have come to believe that success is somehow equivalent to feeling tired and stressed most of the time. -- From "You Are What You Sleep" by Alex Beasley of Belmont University.

Students speak out about the serious mental and physical health consequences of sustained sleep deprivation:

What many people fail to recognize is that depression is not only a symptom of sleep deprivation, but it can also be a cause. Scientists refer to this as a “bidirectional” relationship. Students who are chronically sleep deprived are damaging their mental health without even noticing that their poor sleep habits are leading to their ailing mental state - or aggravating issues that are already present. -- From "Sleep Is The Component You're Missing For Improved Mental Health" by Eryn Cooper of University of Alabama

Once I think I can accomplish something, I expect the best performance of which I am capable in every class, club or sport - with little forgiveness if I fall short of the bar I set. However, transitioning from this all-or-nothing mindset is critical to sustainable physical and mental health. Such attitudes contribute to the rates of anxiety and depression spiraling at elite institutions all over the country. -- From "How College Students Can Perform Better By Scaling Back" by Carly Stern of Duke University.

Studies have shown that sleep-deprivation is detrimental to performance, both athletically and academically. A 2014 Queensland University study found that the amount of sleep an athlete gets is determined by his or her training schedule. The researchers confirmed that earlier start times lead to a direct loss of sleep and increased fatigue prior to practice. -- From "Sleep Is The Key To Peak Performance In College Athletics" by Corinne Bain of Harvard University.

Ultimately, these students are optimistic and proactive about changing sleep culture on college campuses:

Your GPA doesn’t define you any more than your fraternity affiliation does. Your body and your mental wellbeing are infinitely more important than your grades. -- From "No Sleep Until Graduation: The College Crisis" by Alana Moskowitz of USC.

I understand, now, that as jaded as people may seem about sleep, the subject is anything but irrelevant. Thank you, Penn, for showing me how wrong I was. -- From "The Sleep Revolution Ignites at Penn" by Josh Kahn of University of Pennsylvania.

It’s okay to practice self-care. It doesn’t make you any less important — in fact, it can only contribute and help you with your personal success. So today, I’m going to make a pledge. No more: “I pulled an all-nighter!” humble brags. No more “I’m so busy!” responses when people ask me how I’m doing. I pledge self-care to help me feel alive. I hope you will join me. -- From "I'm Making One Major Change Next Semester - And You Can Too" by Rini Sampath of USC.

For more coverage of our College Sleep Tour, check out our Live Blog, why we’re focusing on colleges, Arianna Huffington’s announcement, and our sleep product partners. If you want to join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at 



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