By: Hannah Heitz
Although some college students might argue they have too much work or simply “work better at night,” the mounting health evidence does not support its value. Beyond the physical effects, research shows that sleep deprivation can impair emotion regulation and can lead to increased stress reactivity. Lack of sleep could partially account for data from the Spring 2015 National College Health Assessment survey. This survey found that 42.8% of college students report feeling more stress than average, while 10.7% report feeling tremendous stress. High levels of stress are associated with numerous adverse health outcomes: depression, obesity, autoimmune disorders, cognitive impairment, and inflammatory disorders.
It may be difficult to make a drastic change to your sleep habits overnight. Sleep researcher and Center for the Study of Human Health Faculty member Amanda Freeman advises students to aim for an extra 15-20 minutes of sleep each night and build up slowly to the goal of 7-9 hours per night. Even if an individual is naturally a night owl, college classes often require early wake-up times, which necessitate a sleep schedule that can accommodate early mornings. Although it may take some work and a few changes, it is possible to arrive well-rested and mentally prepared for a class at 8AM while maintaining a healthy weight and balanced lifestyle.
1: Spiegel, K., Tasali, E., Penev, P., and Van Cauter, E. (2004). Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Annals of internal medicine 141, 846-850.
2: Spiegel, K., Knutson, K., Leproult, R., Tasali, E., and Van Cauter, E. (2005). Sleep loss: a novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Journal of applied physiology 99, 2008-2019.