Students and Sleep
Have you asked your student how they are lately? Has his/her answer been along the lines of tired/exhausted? If yes, that’s not surprising. University students are one of the most sleep deprived age groups and tend to lead very busy lives. Being tired has been linked to negative consequences in the student population including decreased academic performance, mood changes and behavior problems. While many students argue that they can function normally on very little sleep, they do acknowledge that they don’t always feel great while doing so. The problem isn’t that students don’t understand the importance of good sleeping habits; it just appears that sleep doesn’t always get prioritized.
I commonly get asked why students don’t sleep more, especially when they feel tired all the time. There’s a wide variety of answers given by students, but most revolve around their busy university lifestyle. Academically, most students are unable to work or study weeks in advance and instead focus on finishing things closer to the due date. If a student has multiple projects/tests in the same week, this can result in late nights to complete everything in a “just in time” manner. Why don’t students work on things sooner? Often, it’s really easy to procrastinate if there’s no sense of urgency and other more immediate deadlines take priority.
Another aspect of student life is the constant opportunity for social interaction. I’m sure I’m not the only student who’s guilty of talking to their roommate for an extra hour instead of going to bed on time. Having social time is important to students; university can be a very lonely experience if you don’t have some great friends that you can count on. Often times, the feelings of belonging and inclusion can take priority over sleep. Similarly, extracurricular activities are important to some students and can make it more difficult to find time for other activities and sleep.
I also find that university schedules are inherently detrimental to a good sleep schedule. Some students are lucky and start at the same time every day, while other students have very diverse start times. If you have 8:30 class three times a week then start at 11:00 the others, it’s pretty difficult not to sleep in on the days you can. This can start disrupting a sleep schedule very quickly and make getting out of bed for earlier classes even more of a challenge.
If your student is complaining about being tired on a regular basis, we have a couple of resources on campus that you can read about when you click on the links below. Not all tired students require additional help however. Sometimes spending a semester or two being tired is enough to motivate students to try to improve their sleeping habits! If your student is having severe problems, such as accidently sleeping through classes, falling asleep at inappropriate times, not being able to fall asleep at night, or anything else that seems to be greatly interrupting their life, then I would suggest that your student reach out and see if there is room for improvement.
The Better Sleep Program: This program is run once per week for five weeks and focuses on providing information and skills instruction to help promote better sleep. There’s a $20.00 fee for University of Guelph students, however it is conveniently located on campus: http://www.uoguelph.ca/~ksomers/sleep.html
The Wellness Centre Information Kits: The Wellness Centre is located on campus and has a variety of information packets available to students, including one about sleep and sleep disorders. Students are free to visit the Wellness Centre at their convenience and can borrow the information package to bring home and read: http://www.uoguelph.ca/studenthealthservices/wellness-centre/what-we-off...