By Jayson Flores
June 6, 2014
Pulling all-nighters is an honorary college sport — one that students may want to refrain from playing in the future.
According to a small study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the effects of poor sleep can result in academic failures — poor grades, withdrawal from class, etc. — equal to that of students who binge drink or use marijuana.
A lack of sleep can result in various side effects, which differs from person to person.
“Generally, my body feels sore when I do not get enough sleep. During such times, I feel like taking an ice bath to force my body to feel awake and refreshed,” says Anna Gragert, a sophomore business administration major at State University of New York at New Paltz. “I have trouble remembering things and keeping up with everything. Sometimes, I even get chest pains or stomach pains when I lose enough sleep.”
The American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment analyzed the sleep data of 43,000 students to determine the effects of sleep on academic performance. The researchers made adjustments in the data, specifically when students reported any sort of mental health concerns like depression, which on their own can cause difficulties in the classroom and beyond.
But do students who have trouble sleeping actually feel as bad or worse than students who binge drink or smoke marijuana?
“In acceptable amounts, I feel better after drinking. Running on little to no sleep is a different story; I would much prefer a wicked hangover than the lack of sleep feeling,” says Trish Reznick, a junior mass communications major at York College of Pennsylvania.
Roxanne Prichard, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., told the Huffington Post that, while most students don’t have clinical sleep disorders, 60% of students report having some sort of difficulty sleeping.
“I have a sleeping problem in the sense that I don’t sleep enough or well enough,” says Jennifer Clark, a junior computer technology design major at Arcadia University.
“I’m beginning to find the less sleep I get the harder it is for me to get out of bed in the morning. I used to be able to get up with the alarm, now I hit snooze and it takes me like a half hour to actually get up,” she adds.
Institutions of higher education have not traditionally allocated any funds or activities to discussing or assisting students who have trouble getting enough sleep, which differs greatly from the massive amount of programming provided to combat alcohol and drug-use.
One school that has made sleep a priority is the University of Michigan, which recently made the news for a new addition to their campus — napping stations. Sleep deprived students now have a resource for rest that provides students with a way to cope with stress while giving them a moment to relax.
A lack of sleep can also make students more overwhelmed than they already are.
“When I do have trouble sleeping, I feel stressed because the longer I am laying there without falling asleep, the more time I have to stress over things I haven’t given a thought to during the day. My body feels uncomfortable, like I feel the need to move every second,” admits Anouchka Kibora, a sophomore International Studies major at Arcadia University.
Among all grade levels, freshmen are most heavily affected by lack of sleep. According to the study, one of the biggest causes of this is their age, which biologically makes freshmen more inclined to stay up really late.
Health in-take forms do not always have spaces for students to report on their sleep, which is potentially a big miss for student health & wellness centers. Prichard adds to this, explaining that many other issues like a student’s mental health can be strongly affected by the amount of sleep a student is getting.
“When I have trouble sleeping, I feel like I am on ‘auto-pilot’, my anxiety is through the roof and I question my every little decision,” says Reznick.
Hitting the hay is more important than ever, not only for one’s health, but also for one’s academics. The study and its research will be presented at SLEEP 2014, the 28th annual gathering of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
Homonormativity fighter, Buffy lover and Hot Mess Express conductor, Jayson Flores is a contributing writer for USA TODAY College and Philadelphia Magazine’s Gay and Lesbian blog G Philly. He is a proud feminist, gaymer, Puerto Rican and warrior for equality. Check him out on Twitter @Jaysonstation.