Sleep deprived students struggle to sustain lifestyle
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 23:02
Miami University students find themselves caught in the nationwide struggle to find enough sleep.
According to the 2012 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey of 76,481 undergraduate students from 141 universities, 22 percent of students reported sleeping difficulties severe enough to have a negative impact on their academic performance.
Miami senior Yerine Lee, who gets three to four hours of sleep per night, said she falls in that demographic. According to Lee, the transition to a college environment worsened her pre-existing sleeping difficulties.
“In the beginning I had so much work to do,” Lee said. “I guess now, this year, I’ve gotten more used to not sleeping much and even if I’m not doing work it’s just continuously like that.”
According to Lee, the lack of sleep has taken its toll.
“In class I can tell I’m definitely not at my full potential,” Lee said. “There were a few times when I was taking exams that I dozed off during, so I feel like my performance at school could be a lot better than it is.”
Assistant Director of Health Education, Leslie Haxby McNeill, said students who fail to get enough sleep are setting themselves up to face the impossible.
“For students who are trying to achieve academically, and I suspect many students are also trying to hold down a job or have a lot of involvement, to be able to function optimally is not going to happen if you are chronically sleep deprived,” McNeill said.
An eight-hour sleep schedule is ideal, though many students see that as an unrealistic goal, McNeill said.
“I’ve heard students say sleep, study and social life; you can have two, but not all three,” McNeill said. “I would really advocate for students to really try to look at a more balanced lifestyle. When a person is younger they sometimes feel like they can ‘get by’ with less sleep, but really there is no age you can.”
Lee confirmed this mentality and said the balancing act often becomes a struggle for students.
“I feel like there’s always something going on [at Miami], especially at night also,” Lee said. “It’s so easy for me to just [go out] … There are a lot of times when I tell myself I’d rather do this than just go to bed and miss out.”
According to McNeill, the constant battle often results in substance use—people forcing their bodies to do things they weren’t meant to do.
“Some students resort to more extreme measures, for example, using prescription drugs in a way that’s not prescribed,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things that can become very detrimental.”
On the other hand, some suffer from sleeping difficulty severe enough to be prescribed sleeping aids. Sophomore Kit Collins is one such student.
For Collins, it’s the irrepressible thoughts at the end of the day that keep him awake long after he begs for rest.
“When I lay down in bed that’s when I do my thought process,” Collins said. “That’s when I’m like, ‘Okay lets figure out everything that happened today.’ That’s what I started doing when I was young, and it became a terrible habit and developed into insomnia.”
Collins can relate to the 6 percent of students surveyed in the NCHA who reported having been diagnosed with, or treated by a health professional for insomnia or another sleeping disorder.
According to Collins, a normal dose of a sleeping aid is around three to five milligrams, but due to the degree of his insomnia, doctors prescribed him 25 milligrams of Ambien CR.
“I was getting high after taking so much of those drugs and I still couldn’t sleep,” Collins said.
After failed attempts to treat his insomnia, Collins said he began to realize substances weren’t the answer.
“Those [prescribed] drugs help you get to the place where you can fall asleep, but it’s still about the mental process of putting your worries away, putting [expletive] out of your head,” Collins said. “One of the things I do now, when I’m having a really rough night, I count backwards from a thousand using sevens.”
Though Collins no longer uses sleeping aids, Lee said she knows students who do. According to her, it’s also common for students to take Adderall, a prescription stimulant, to stay awake for both studying and partying purposes.
“I know a lot more people who if they don’t get enough sleep take Adderall or something to stay up … ” Lee said. “I think a lot of people realize that’s not how you are supposed to solve the problem, but they might think it’s the only choice they have.”
Lee said Adderall isn’t the only substance being used. According to her, caffeine is a constant in students’ lives. She described it as keeping her in a ‘weird state-of-being’ where she is awake, but only because what she has consumed.