By Paris Franz, For The Miami Student
The saying goes: sleep, study or a social life — in college, pick two, because having all three is impossible.
A study published last year in the “Journal of Nature and Science of Sleep” suggests that among college students, sleep is not the priority.
The study found that 70 percent of college students get insufficient sleep, meaning they obtain less than the eight hours per night needed by adolescents and young adults. School, social activities and job obligations are prioritized instead, resulting in students staying up late and getting up early.
Sleep deprivation can lead to decreased alertness, compromised learning, impaired mood and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.
Sophomore Sarah Hiner said she believes the heavy workload in college makes it impossible to get enough sleep.
“Because of my major I have a lot of homework and labs to do, and oftentimes I will realize that it is going to be a late night and sometimes an all-nighter with homework,” said Hiner. “Honestly, I don’t feel like I could [manage my time better]. I start my homework many times several days in advance and I still don’t have enough time.”
Assistant professor of psychology Joshua Magee believes that in addition to heavy workloads, high stress levels contribute to poor sleep quality.
“One of the big triggers for poor sleep that we know about is stress, and there’s a lot of stress obviously that occurs in college,” said Magee.
While the cause of poor sleep may vary from person to person, lack of sleep has been tied to a variety of negative health impacts.
Leslie Haxby McNeill, assistant director of student wellness, works with overly stressed and exhausted students.
“If you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s going to run down and your immune system is not going to be as strong,” said Haxby McNeill. “Depression, anxiety, concern for a friend, stress — all of those things can be complicated by a lack of sleep.”
Lack of sleep specifically impedes academic achievement. Last year’s National College Health Assessment found that about one in five students experience sleep difficulties that inhibit their academic performance.
First-year Nathan Swartzentruber makes a point to get enough sleep, setting a “bedtime” for himself at midnight.
“It just helps to get the same amount every night of sleep,” he said. “[Sleep] is definitely important because it keeps your body in balance.”
College students that don’t or can’t get consistent sleep may try to “catch-up” during the weekends, sleeping for extra long periods of time. However, this strategy is not effective, said Haxby McNeill.
“There are some myths about sleep and sometimes people will think that they can stock up on sleep, so go through the week without sleep and then on the weekend or the next night get a lot of sleep, and often they get this kind of rebound effect where they feel worse,” she said.
Another myth is that alcohol can help you fall asleep.
“Sometimes people will think that alcohol will help them go to sleep, and I’ve heard of students who use alcohol to help them go to sleep,” Haxby McNeill said. “In fact it interrupts your sleep cycles and you don’t get as deep or restful a sleepas when you’re sober.”
According to Haxby McNeill, using alcohol while sleep deprived also increases the impact of the alcohol, causing the user to feel and act more intoxicated.
Although maintaining a social life and good grades can be taxing, Haxby McNeill encourages students to place more importance on getting adequate sleep.
“You brush your teeth every day, you should floss every day, there are things that you do to take care of yourself,” she said. “[Sleep] is one of those.”