As part of the conversation around sleep that Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Sleep Revolution, has inspired, we asked college students around the country how hard it really is to prioritize rest. Members of this particularly sleep-deprived population responded by writing about stress, work culture and self-care.
Their responses show how aware students are about the problem of insufficient sleep, and how relevant the message of the Sleep Revolution College Tour — which is visiting more than 50 campuses this month to help students learn how to actually do something about this issue — could be to them.
Here are some of the best student insights.
On the pull of extracurriculars:
When social worth is defined by what a student does outside of the classroom, there is incentive to overcommit… Add these roles to the five full academic courses, part-time jobs or internships, regular exercise, and social lives students already maintain and you can begin to see why Georgetown’s sleep culture has reached an all-time health low. — From “Is ‘Sleep When You’re Dead’ Georgetown University’s Unofficial Motto?” by Sydney Jean Gottfried of Georgetown University
Harvard is full of exhausted athletes who are trying to make it through a day full of class without falling asleep. The pressure stemming from coaches to perform before the sun rises coupled with the expectation to excel in the classroom is the perfect recipe for burnout and exhaustion. — From “Sleep Is The Key To Peak Performance In College Athletics” by Corinne Bain of Harvard University
The most popular, overused excuse for why college students are not getting enough sleep is two little words: “I’m busy.” Yes — busy — the word that has lost virtually all meaning in the last decade. It’s 2016 and everyone’s busy. — From “The Young And The Sleepless: Why College Students Don’t Get Enough Rest” by Jackie Anyanwu of American University
On a negative wellness culture:
It seems we live in a culture that has assigned a degree of respect to anyone who proudly proclaims, “Yeah, I pulled an all-nighter.” We shouldn’t be impressed; we should be sorry. — From “Let’s Stop Glorifying Sleep Deprivation” by Brad Streicher of the University of Southern California
We are students drunk on determination, ill with ambition, and perturbed by perfection. Despite the fact that 22 percent of college students say that sleep difficulties have had a negative effect on their academic performance, we continue down a path of sleepless self-destruction. — From “The College Sleep Stigma” by Riley Griffin of Duke University
Leavey Library, USC’s 24-hour study hub, has been nicknamed “Club Leavey” and “Hotel Leavey” because students often camp out there until the wee hours of the morning. Then, after making it through this sleep-deprived week of midterms, many students choose to “take a break” from academics by rallying for the next party instead of sleeping to recover from the week of all-nighters they just pulled studying. — From “Is Sleep Deprivation The New College Norm?” by Jacqueline Baltz of USC
I know students who have given up on getting quality sleep because they have come to believe that success is somehow equivalent to feeling tired and stressed most of the time. The idea that sleeplessness does not equal success is an association in our minds that’s difficult to break even when we know that hugely successful people like Bill Gates or Tim Cook prioritize sleep above their work. — From “You Are What You Sleep” by Alex Beasley of Belmont University
It feels as if both Penn and its students choose to tune out potential solutions to the problem of sleep deprivation even though we regularly obsess over it. Perhaps it’s because the situation is a personal one. — From “The University of Pennsylvania Has An Empty Bed Epidemic” by Josh Kahnof University of Pennsylvania
On potential solutions:
It’s okay to practice self-care. It doesn’t make you any less important — in fact, it can only contribute and help you with your personal success. So today, I’m going to make a pledge. No more: “I pulled an all-nighter!” humble brags. — From “I’m Making One Major Change Next Semester — And You Can Too” by Rini Sampath of USC
We college students must redefine our interpretation of validation and instead examine ourselves on an individual pedestal, subject to our own ambitions and standards rather than to the greatest capacity of others. — From “Why College Students Today Are So Burned Out” by Carly Stern of Duke
Maybe the next time a friend bemoans having to pull an all-nighter… we can gently encourage them to take a break. Or, if it’s you who’s putting in those late-night hours, maybe go home for sleep rather than the campus cafe for coffee. You deserve it. You matter, and your health matters. — From A College Student’s Convictions On Self-Care” by Jane Jun of the University of Chicago