Sleepy college students

March 11, 2007


I have a handful of students in my 9 am music theory class that can not haul their asses out of bed to make it to class on time. I have been assured it is a “sleep issue” and not boring lectures that is the problem.

I remember seeing a documentary on our need for sleep and how it is different at different stages in our lives. I found a very helpful article on college students’ need for sleep on Stanford University’s website.

I have always been an early riser and a nap taker. Not through any practice or moral superiority, that’s just what my body wants. My parents are the same way. The tendency to get up early or late is likely genetic. Regardless of whether it is or not, young people getting ready to exist in the post-parental world have to learn how to get up on time to be at work or at school. If they are having difficulty getting up in the morning, they should go to bed earlier–as “uncool” as that may seem.
Faculty, as designers of their curricula, should be aware of these very real limitations of our students. We cannot expect them to stay in school all day long, barely having time to eat meals, and their evenings are filled with homework and late night activities – curricular or not. Staying up late is common for college students and ultimately very unhealthy. I doubt that dorm overseers can really enforce a go-to-bed-early policy. And although I feel strongly that universities and colleges must educate their students about the benefits of sleep, students need to buy into those benefits themselves.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

chwejinho March 11, 2007 at 7:36 pm

I much appreciate the comment about designing curricula (?) so that a full-time course load does not as a matter of course necessitate students sleeping less than 8 hours a day… I do think that one of the most important things we learn in school is prioritizing tasks, and taking responsibility for time-management. Students of course can accomplish extraordinary things under pressure; as they say, need drives like the devil, and you realize that sometimes things have to get done, no matter what. I think that’s an important lesson.

That being said, the system should not be set up so there’s no way a student can win (e.g., a student does everything ideally/reasonably efficiently, and still has insufficient time to maintain conditions necessary for his/her health and person, etc). There should be a pay-off, I think: so that the student feels the more efficient they are, the bigger the pay-off; instead of feeling like there’s no way, and they’re somewhat doomed no matter how hard they try. But it’s a hard thing to quantify.

In my case, unfortunately, one of the side-effects of over-scheduling stress is insomnia, which aggravates me no end, one of those downward spiral thingies. Breathe deeply, right? Maybe more jumping jacks. 🙂

Brad Wood March 12, 2007 at 11:10 am

I wonder how the sleep-deprived are doing today, with our absurd early daylight savings time adoption? Miniscule energy savings at best, and who will account for the human cost in lost productivity, car accidents, and so forth?

Naps are great. For me, their availability is one of the most valuable perks of working most of the time at home.

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