At the beginning of the semester, I was just another misinformed college student, staying up to maximize study time (or free time) and only sleeping when my head started drooping to the floor.
The Sleep Revolution has had a personal impact on my life and, I hope, an impact on the lives of those around me. The revolution not only champions getting a good night's sleep every night, but also promotes a sound mental state and time management skills. I can't tell you how many times throughout my four years at MU that I've sat in my room, doing absolutely nothing but worry endlessly about my responsibilities.
It's surprisingly easy to get trapped in an unhealthy headspace. With round-the-clock responsibilities comes the innate guilt and uneasiness of relaxing and taking some time for yourself. But more than anything, that endless stress is just a state of mind. With The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington (read: one of the busiest women in the world) is telling college students and adults alike that it's totally peachy to put the work down for a few moments of zen.
"With round-the-clock responsibilities comes the innate guilt and uneasiness of relaxing and taking some time for yourself."
A month ago, a few large boxes arrived at my doorstep. The Sleep Revolution, now more than just a mental state, had manifested itself in boxes of goodies and knick-knacks. These items became the basis for an event that I held for myself and a few friends, celebrating sleep in both its mental and physical capacities.
At this event, my friends and I talked about our sleep habits, and moreover our unhealthy tendencies brought about by our busy college schedules. Over the past few weeks and months, friends and acquaintances of mine have been eager to talk with me about sleep. But the difference, I noticed, was in how we were talking. Sleep conversations were no longer just venting sessions, but serious attempts at therapy and actual change.
Heather Finn, a friend and fellow MU journalism student, was excited to tell me about her new focus on nightly routines and positive sleep habits. She talked to me about her new nightly goal - to bed by midnight and up by 7 - and how it seems to work for her when she can manage it. But she also recognized how hard sleep positivity can be in a college environment.
"The average conversation about sleep on campus, in a nutshell, sounds like this: 'I'm sooooo tired.' 'Oh, you got four hours of sleep last night? I only got two.' Sleeping is evidently not cool anymore."
And it's true. Boasting about getting the recommended nine hours of sleep a night isn't exactly a ticket to popularity. But Heather also recognized how college doesn't exactly reflect real life in many ways. During college years, student are taught to work hard and often for the benefit of their future, where they'll hopefully have a real job and a solid work ethic to boot. But, a soon-to-be graduate like myself, Heather recognized the unhealthy habits perpetrated by college atmospheres in particular.
"Throughout college, I've spent many nights working on homework and studying until I feel like I'm going to pass out rather than attempting to have any sort of bedtime routine. I can't say I ever felt like I needed to do anything like that before college. Thankfully, I feel like that period of my life is ending, and I'm starting to care a bit more about taking care of myself and, you know, actually sleeping."
About an hour and a half west of the MU campus, Central Missouri student Anna Robb reflected a similar philosophy. Unlike Heather, however, Anna grew up with a very strict bedtime, which is something she has learned to appreciate.
"I've continued to keep a fairly static "bedtime" that changes slightly to accommodate for my class, work, and lab schedules each semester. But now that I'm in college, I'm more likely to give up sleep to study or hang out with friends. I tell myself that I'll catch up on sleep on the weekend or when I have "extra" time, but it's impossible to make up for the lost time with a busy schedule like the one I choose to keep."
Anna, despite being very well-educated about the importance of sleep, still falls into college's tempting traps. She likes to take naps, but knows that no matter how refreshing they are in the moment, they tend to throw off sleep patterns in the long run. And also like Heather, Anna attributes much of the temptation to stay awake to the ever-present fear of missing out.
"Boasting about getting the recommended nine hours of sleep a night isn't exactly a ticket to popularity."
Whether the result of #SleepRevolution's impact or not, I was happy to hear that both Heather and Anna have daily routines and rituals that promote sleep and good health. Heather likes to take a hot shower, read and write in a journal before bedtime. Anna likes to meditate during the day and schedules time to sleep in on the weekends.
Both, regardless of particular habits, have their heads in the right place. There IS time to do it all, but, even more importantly, there's time to give yourself a break for the sake of mental and physical health.
This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.