On Saturday, April 9, my sorority and I brought the #SleepRevolution to the University of Alabama. I was so excited to educate my sisters on the prevalence and danger of sleep deprivation and to discuss how the phenomenon affects each other in our daily lives as college students.
We wasted no time in getting all cozied up in our Lands' End PJs! They were perfect for a girl's afternoon in.
After we enjoyed some delicious KIND snacks, I jumped right into our sleep discussion. I first asked my sisters how they felt about the tendency for college students to adopt the "I'll sleep when I'm dead" mentality - how staying awake longer is becoming a way to measure success. The rationalization for this notion varied among my group. "We live at a university where we are always trying to get ahead," one sister explained. Even when she tries to take a night for herself to relax, she ends up feeling guilty that she isn't being more productive. Another sister mentioned how she views sleep as more of a reward than a necessity. "Oh, I get to sleep in until 9 a.m. tomorrow?" she asked, "Then I must stay up until 2 a.m. to get more work done."
We also discussed the role of peer pressure in depriving ourselves of sleep. One of my sisters said that people make fun of her for going to bed early, and she is often coaxed into going out with her friends instead. The temptation of going out and partying the night away rather than catching up on some Z's can seem like a better reward for the hard work you completed during the day. The immense pressure to be social seemed to be a common source of sleep deprivation among my friends.
It became apparent that sleep has not been a top priority for my sisters. When I asked them where sleep ranked among school and social life, for most it was dead last. One sister said that she often stays up until 4 a.m. doing homework and will still be up in time to go to her 8 a.m. class. She claims she trained her body to have her her prime productivity levels begin at 11 p.m. and does her best work while everyone else is asleep. Only two sisters mentioned that they usually put sleep before social life - they know how poorly they will feel if they show up to their early morning classes after a late night out and only four hours of sleep.
My next question was seemingly simple: So, what do we do? How do we fix our sleep habits? Although these solutions may be much easier said than done at first, here is what we came up with:
1. Put yourself first and don't overbook yourself.
School is important, but your well-being is more important. Only you know your limits and need to accept when it is time to take a break and take a nap.
2. Budget your time and don't procrastinate.
In order to get the sleep you need, you have to set aside specific time to do the most important things in your day first. If you are a part of a student organization, make sure you give yourself enough time to fulfill your commitments, so you aren't staying up late trying to make time for everything.
3. Realize that in order to achieve good and efficient work, you need sleep.
This was a huge point my sisters and I appreciated Arianna Huffington making in her TED Talk. Huffington explained that "the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is more sleep." One of my sisters elaborated onto this concept by saying, "Adopting healthy habits now as a 19-year-old college student will allow you to work your way up to achieve your bigger goals as you get older. It all starts with sleep."
To wrap things up, I asked the group to tell me about their relationship with sleep. Here were their responses:
"I love it, but I can't get enough!"
"Going to bed is my favorite part of the day."
"My bed is my favorite place."
All of my sisters yearned for a stronger, healthier, happier bond with sleep, but after our discussion, they all understood that they needed to make that change for themselves.
It was truly an honor and an incredible experience to host this gathering for my sorority and talk about an issue that I have been so passionate about for the last 5 years. This is one of many efforts I have made to bring sleep deprivation awareness to my campus and I will continue to give my peers the wake-up call they need to start living a more healthy and successful life as students.