"Sleep, grades, social life: pick two." This motto, or some version of it, can be heard on college campuses across the country -- it's yet more evidence, as if we needed any, that college students today feel as if they're in a no-win situation, forced to choose between sleep and life.
That's a choice nobody should ever have to make. And that's why I'm thrilled to announce The Huffington Post's Sleep Revolution College Tour, coming this spring to 50 campuses across the country, drawing on the latest science to raise awareness and spark a national conversation about the importance of sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation.
To help students embrace sleep as a performance enhancer rather than something that gets in the way of achievement and success, we've partnered with major brands, including Sleep Number, JetBlue, Marriott, Jawbone, Cocomat, Spotify, Lands' End, Fresh, Sleep Shepherd, Headspace, Marpac, Sheex, and others to host "sleep fairs" and slumber parties on campuses to give students tangible tools and products to learn better sleep habits and make small but transformational changes in their lives.
Some of the products our partners have donated include pajamas, slippers, eye-masks, candles, dream journals, free Headspace memberships, free copies of The Sleep Revolution, white noise machines and, so students no longer feel they have to have their sleep-disrupting smartphones by their bed, real alarm clocks. The tour will also feature panels and conversations with leading sleep experts, and we'll be featuring sleep-themed blog posts and videos on The Huffington Post from students and professors.
To illustrate the depth of our campus sleep crisis, here is how some of our HuffPost campus editors-at-large have described the sleep culture on their respective campuses:
- "I get this notion that sleep deprivation is a huge badge of honor. People sometimes refer to Leavey Library as 'Hotel Leavey' because a lot of students pull all-nighters there." ~ Fernando Hurtado, USC
In recent years, there's been a lot of attention given to the problems of binge drinking and drug use among high school and college students. But a 2014 study by the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota showed that the effect of sleep deprivation on students' academic performance is roughly equivalent to binge drinking and drug use. "I don't think sleep problems are often included on the questionnaire intake forms for health services," says Roxanne Prichard, a psychology professor at the University of St. Thomas, "and that could be explaining a lot of the other problems that you see showing up, including recurrent illnesses."
What makes getting sleep in college much harder is FOMO -- the fear of missing out -- which leads to smartphone addiction, obsessively checking for texts, messages, updates, notifications, and alerts at all hours. Researchers at California State University, Dominguez Hills, looked at more than seven hundred college students and found that those who felt anxious when separated from their phones were more likely to stare at their electronic screens right until the moment they went to sleep. They also woke up more frequently throughout the night to check their phones.
But far too many college students still believe there is no other way if they want to do well academically and have a great social life. Nor is this widespread belief surprising, given our cultural assumption, which is at the heart of our sleep crisis, that overwork and burnout are the price we must pay in order to succeed. So colleges have in many ways become the boiler room of our burnout culture, with disastrous consequences for our students' physical and mental health. The method (or cheat code) they use is the one the rest of us use: feeling that there aren't enough hours in the day, we look for something to cut. And sleep is an easy target. In fact, up against this unforgiving definition of success, sleep doesn't stand a chance. Indeed, in college life, going without sleep is considered a badge of honor.
Despite all this -- or perhaps because of all this -- colleges are uniquely positioned to be key drivers of the Sleep Revolution. That's why I'm delighted to bring the Sleep Revolution to campuses across the country, and to see how students will make it their own and lead the way -- for themselves, their classmates, and the rest of us -- to the recognition that adequate sleep is essential for our health, our productivity, our relationships and our happiness.
Here's the schedule of the 16 campuses where HuffPost will be leading sleep fairs, and the 35 others where we're helping organize sleep-related events led by students and college staff:
- University of Denver - April 8
- Barnard College
If you go to one of these colleges, or if you know someone who does -- your child, your friend, a friend's child, etc. -- let them know about the tour. If your school isn't on the list, and you want to help bring the Sleep Revolution to your campus, please contact our director of college outreach, Abby Williams, at firstname.lastname@example.org (and here is her post on the college tour) who, together with our senior manager of partnerships and content, Marcos Saldivar (email@example.com), is leading our college tour.
And if you want to share your sleep story and join the conversation on your own campus and beyond, please email Abby or Marcos with your post, and we'll give you a password for future posts. And here are some prompts to get you started:
- Are you happy with your relationship with sleep?
We are also launching a social media campaign using the hashtag #sleeprevolution. So please share your story or just your photos or a video on your social media channels, and here are some ideas to get you started.
- What's on your nightstand? Use the hashtag #OneNightStand;
Vive la #SleepRevolution!