There is some kind of love-hate relationship between college students and sleep. There is a perception that staying awake to study, finishing that last page of the term paper, reviewing that cheat-sheet for a final one more time, is still a better option than going to bed early. Sleep is the easy trade-off when it comes to "things you can take away" from an everyday college student life. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was the queen of #TeamNoSleep.
This past week I interviewed a few of my peers at the University of Oregon to understand the culture of sleep on my campus. The responses confirmed my fear- students are not getting enough sleep. There are many factors that play a part in a student's lack of sleep. The common answers were: studying, homework, and extracurricular activities. Students are trading sleep time for homework.
"Sleep and relaxation come second to classes. I'd rather stay up till 2 a.m. and finish a project due the next day rather than turn something in that is incomplete. Weekends are for sleeping," (Reba).*
Do professors have unrealistic expectations for students? Are they assigning too much homework? Too many out of class activities?
Before the start of winter term I met with my academic advisor. She helped me breakdown the workload I can expect. She advised that for every one credit hour, I needed to spend approximately two to three hours outside of class studying. Now add your work schedule and other activities like volunteering, social life, family life, or other obligations to the mix. I don't know about you but that can be very overwhelming. There was a time that I worked about 30 hours per week, had 15 credits which equals to an additional 20 hours of work, and therefore, if I were to calculate my total workload, I was working for a total of roughly 50 hours per week.
As another student's sentiments reveal, balancing school and homework is tough:
"There is a lot of homework. I'm taking 4 courses. I finish homework and then go to work. I barely have time at the end of the night for myself, it's just not enough. I end up getting about 5-6 hours of sleep to wake up and do it all over again."
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended amount of sleep for college students is 7-9 hours. Many students fall short.
For others, it is mastering the art of balance and time management. "Trying to figure out how to balance work, school, eating healthy and exercise, that's my struggle," (Jill).* The Counseling and Testing Center (UCTC) at the University of Oregon has many resources that students can utilize. Students can make an appointment or go on their site for a variety of tips like stress and anxiety or procrastination and time management. While this is good, there is still need to address, and hopefully change, the sleep culture on campus.
"As a former resident assistant, I would definitely say that the sleep culture among first year students in the resident halls is very anti-sleep (bragging about pulling all-nighters regularly, substituting sleep for coffee, etc). I love sleeping, and it was very weird to see my residents not get enough sleep year after year," said a recent graduate who had also worked as a resident assistant for three years.
The sleep culture on college campuses cannot be changed overnight. I encourage students to start being proactive about promoting healthy living by advocating for a balance between work, school and sleep. We need to start the conversation. It will take each and every one of us to promote healthy living. I am challenging the UO students to check out the resources on our campus and share with others who may not be aware. You may want to start with a power nap instead of another cup of coffee or all-nighter. We need to promote the benefits of adequate sleep at the University of Oregon campus and other campuses as well. #SleepRevolution
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.