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Don’t sleep on the importance of rest

By Christian Stewart
Nov 16, 2016

“You guys are the most sleep-deprived population in the United States,” said Director of Student Counseling and Wellness, Elizabeth Diddle.

Diddle led two seminars last year that focused on sleep awareness. She said that lack of sleep primarily destabilizes your emotional state, but it also has the potential to adversely affect weight and grades. She remarked that it’s ironic how students attend college to learn, yet often they aren’t getting enough proper sleep to function at their fullest mental capacity.

A MNU student sleeps instead of doing homework upstairs in Mabee Learning Commons. Studies show that a lack of sleep can significantly decrease a student’s ability to function. Photo composition by Kacie Vandeventer.An MNU student sleeps instead of doing homework upstairs in Mabee Learning Commons. Studies show that a lack of sleep can significantly decrease a student’s ability to function. Photo composition by Kacie Vandeventer.

According to Diddle, even one night of poor sleep can seriously decrease a student’s ability to function. Emotions become easily frayed and focus frequently gets lost. Yet with the responsibilities and social pressures exerted on the average student, getting quality sleep can be a challenge. Diddle recommended that preventative measures be taken to better ensure a good night’s sleep. She suggested that students avoid caffeine, screen-time, and exercising before turning in.

Many students are known to do the majority of their studies during late hours when they are free of classes or work. In order to make up for this lack of sleep, students often resort to taking naps.

“Short naps are good for you, they are very refreshing. Thirty minutes or less,” Diddle said. “Long naps are going to mess up your regular sleep cycle.”

The notion that a shorter nap is more effective may seem counterintuitive, but Diddle stressed that a proper sleep cycle is essential, and naps that last over thirty minutes begin to affect the cycle adversely. She said the best way to stay well-rested is to find a good rhythm and to stick to it.

Even if you are good at finding a structured schedule, it could be difficult to stay consistent. MNU Freshman Sara Elliot has a regular sleeping routine that she tries to stick to, but even good habits don’t solve everything.

“During the week, I am waking up at 5:30 in the morning for cross-country practice,” Elliot said. “ I usually get to sleep around 10 p.m.”

Elliot said that she was running on about five hours of sleep at the time. She explained that the previous night had been spent socializing with friends, and that late-night socialization was often her reason for missing out on sleep. Although she enjoys spending time with friends, Elliot said that her physical and emotional status suffers when she stays up late.

Elliot’s plight is one that many college students are familiar with. Finding this balance between socializing and sleeping can be a hard thing to do. For freshmen like Elliot, this can be especially challenging. Newer students are often less socially grounded than the upperclassmen, and are more likely to prioritize finding a niche over sleeping.

According to MNU senior Lynsie Petersen, sleep seems to be the first thing to go when college life gets crazy. Petersen implied that it has come to the point where our culture automatically assumes that college is a place of little rest.

“That’s just part of the college experience, being up [late] and not sleeping,” Petersen said.

According to an article by the University of Georgia Health Center, college students get an average of 6-6.9 hours of sleep each night. The UGA Health Center recommends anywhere from 6-10 hours of sleep per night for an average of 8 hours. By this standard, students are missing that mark by two hours regularly. Weekly, this translates into a 14-hour discrepancy between a college sleep schedule and the recommended one.

The National Sleep Foundation says that being well-rested is an undebatable enhancer of performance. Despite all of the evidence, college students seem adamant to stumble along the path of little sleep.

Christian Stewart

- More by this author

Christian Stewart is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.

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