Lack of sleep can cause more health problems than students already expect

Student sleeps in public area after restless night. East Texan Photo



Dominique Wallace, Jessica Reyes, Todd Kleiboer | East Texan Staff

With the combination of the rise of mobile technology, a new and unfamiliar environment,  a busy schedule, college students often do not sleep the appropriate number of hours per night, resulting in detrimental outcomes.

“Grumpy,” Sierra Jackson said when asked about her state of mind after sleeping five or six hours. “During the day, I’m unable to tolerate other people. I’m extremely irritable.”

Cellphones were a common reason cited by students for their lack of sleep, but turning off Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat can prove to be a difficult task for many college students.

“I like to keep up with my friends that are away or my family,” Jackson said. “Then at the end of the day, it’s relaxing to see what everyone’s up to, and I just get so caught up in looking at things before I realize it’s three in the morning.”

Introduced into a more stressful environment than high school, college students may often not obtain healthful rest which is tied to the development of anxiety, depression, and mania.

“College students seem to universally have sleep deficits,” Dean Mattox, a counselor with the Counseling Center, said. “Without enough sleep [for 3-4 days], a person could slip into psychosis though that’s rare.”

In addition to trying to maintain a balance between academics, a social life, and possibly a job, students have a newfound sense of independence that forms as they leave the parents’ nest.

“There is no one saying, ‘Go to bed’,” Mattox said. “Students may not go to bed until late into the night, and I rarely talk to people who get enough sleep. It’s the first question we [counselors] ask at intake.”

Quality is more important over quantity when sleeping; in other words, a short, restful REM period of sleep is more important to restoring the body than seven or eight hours of dozing.

“If you wake up still feeling tired or not feeling like you’ve gotten enough sleep, then you haven’t gotten the appropriate amount of sleep,” Mattox said. “The exact amount of sleep varies person to person and better answered by a doctor.”

According to a study by Southern Georgia University, “college students are one of the most sleep-deprived populations in the United States. Sleep disturbances such as sleep deprivation difficulty getting to or staying asleep are the most frequently cited problems affecting college students.”

“In my experience with the students I’ve encountered, which isn’t many because I deal with a small portion of the population,” Mattox said, his response matching the study, “nine times out of 10, they say they don’t feel like they’ve had enough sleep.”

The study also found that a lack of sleep has been linked to a lower GPA and lower academic performance, and students with little sleep may experience a decline in problem-solving and critical thinking aptitude.

Tips for better sleep hygiene included using the bedroom for sleep and sex only, removing all distractions including the TV and cellphone, avoiding naps that will disturb a normal sleep rhythm, a consistent bedtime, and rise, and not use drugs and alcohol to relax.

“Some colleges have in fact started to offer sleep hygiene information at freshman orientation,” Mattox said. “I don’t think that will work well because freshmen already have so much information thrown at them at orientation.”

Less than 10 percent of students reported sleeping more than 8.5 hours, and more than half of the students slept less than seven hours. However, roughly 63 percent rated their sleep as fairly good and 28 percent as fairly bad.

“College students who do not get enough sleep are also prone to engaging in risky behaviors, such as binge drinking,” the study stated. “Comparing the subjective… and objective results…, it would appear that there may have been an overestimation of ‘good’ sleep quality compared to what actually exists.”