The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Sufficient slumber?

Stress, overscheduling lead to deprevation

A poll by the National Sleep Foundation claims that 63 percent of college students do not get enough sleep and, according to a 2003 survey of the American College Health Association, “sleep difficulties” ranked third among students on a list of the top 10 impediments to student performance.

Sleep deprivation is a problem that occurs on many college campuses around the nation, including Southern Methodist University.

According to Barbara Hare, who has a master’s of art in clinical psychology and is a predoctoral intern in SMU Health Center’s counseling and testing center, sleep deprivation can be defined simply.

“It’s just not getting enough sleep,” Hare said. “Really, minimum functioning requires seven hours of sleep so it’s really anything less than that.”

There are many factors that lead to sleep deprivation among college students.

“A lot of it involves stress, overscheduling, not having enough time to let the body relax, and scheduling choices like staying out late and studying late,” Hare said.

As indicated by Hare’s description, many SMU students suffer from sleep deprivation. Some students say that a heavy course load, jobs and internships, and an active social life are reasons why they do not get enough sleep each night.

Katy Blakey, a junior broadcast journalism and political science major, is one of the many SMU students who suffers from sleep deprivation.. Blakey, who averages four hours of sleep each night, said that she is sleep deprived because, “I procrastinate and I probably go out too much, then my course load is heavy with two majors and a minor. I end up having two demanding majors and not enough time in the day to get things done.”

Ada Esedebe, a sophomore English and business major, said that she currently sleeps about five hours each night. Esedebe believes that her lack of sleep is caused by a variety of factors. “I think it’s just being involved in a lot of organizations. By the time my day is done it’s six or seven. I have to go eat dinner and by the time I sit down to put pen to paper, it’s like eight or nine,” said Esedebe. “I have a pretty intense work load and I’m up ‘til two or three.”

Esedebe also believes that time management is a reason why some students do not get an adequate amount of sleep.

“That hour spent talking with your best friend, that hour watching TV or even the hour in the cafeteria that could have been cut down to 15 or 20 minutes makes you look back and be like, ‘wow!’ Just a minute ago it was nine o’clock and now it’s eleven,” Esedebe said. “If there could be a three-day weekend every weekend, that would really help,” she said.

Like Blakey and Esedebe, Robert Talamantez, a senior dance and geology major who gets between four and seven hours of sleep each night, experiences sleep deprivation.

“I have late rehearsals and late classes. When I come home from rehearsals I’m not tired so I just stay up,” Talamantez said.

Eventually, these students may suffer the consequences associated with getting too little sleep.

The National Institute of Mental Health reported that sleep disturbances that last more than two weeks increase the risk of mental health disorders, including depression. Sleep deprivation can also harm the body and how it functions.

“One of the things that happen when we sleep is that our body repairs daily damage that happens. Not getting enough sleep consistently can certainly reduce your immune system and reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection,” Hare said.

Although some effects of sleep deprivation may not be evident right away, other symptoms are.

Both Esedebe and Talamantez describe occasionally experiencing low energy levels caused by their sleep deprivation. Blakey experiences a more obvious symptom.

“There’s one class in particular that I always fall asleep in. It’s right after lunch and I always doze off because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before,” Blakey said.

Students may believe that they can use the weekend to make up for the sleep that they did not get during the week, but this is not true. The National Sleep Foundation says, “Sleeping late on the weekends to make up for the week results in confused biological rhythms and daytime sleepiness. The body can not differentiate between sleep time and occasions requiring alertness.”

This is a problem that Blakey has experienced firsthand.

“I’ll usually crash on the weekend and have one night of a lot of sleep. I’ll wake up the next day and still be sleepy,” Blakey said.

There are a lot of other ways that students try to deal with sleep deprivation. Both Talamantez and Blakey drink coffee to stay awake and alert. Blakey also drinks Red Bull, a drink that is supposed to raise one’s energy level.

Guzzling cup after cup of coffee may seem like a good way to stay awake the day after you pull an all-nighter, but it may do more harm than good. NSF says that caffeine can affect some people for up to 12 hours and may cause you to have trouble going to sleep. NSF says, “Avoiding caffeine within six to eight hours before going to bed can help improve sleep quality.”

NSF also recommends that people who suffer from sleep deprivation avoid nicotine and alcohol before they go to sleep because they are stimulants that can disturb sleep patterns.

Many SMU students who suffer from sleep deprivation and other sleep related issues may not know that they can get help here on campus. Both the Learning Enhancement Center and the Health Center can be of assistance to students suffering from these issues.

“I’m an RA and I’m always promoting it (LEC) to my residents. They have stuff for everything and test taking tips,” Esedebe said. The LEC offers services like time management workshops, tutoring and study tips to students, all things that may help students alleviate the stress in their day and have more time to sleep.

SMU’s health center is also a good place for students to go for help if they suffer from sleep deprivation.

“There are three options. Downstairs are the medical doctors and you can make an appointment down there with one of them, upstairs we have a counseling and testing department where you can make an appointment and talk to a psychologist or a grad student here who can give you tips, strategies, and techniques to get a good night’s sleep,” Hare said. “Upstairs in the health services we have two types of psychiatrists, they can do an evaluation.”

Sleep deprivation is an issue that is prevalent on college campuses both nationally and locally. The daily demand of balancing school, work, family, fun and friends can be taxing and lead to a lack of sleep. The services in the counseling and testing center are free of charge and any enrolled student can go there to get help.

Hare recommends that students who suffer from sleep deprivation get testing and counseling as soon as possible.

“It can be helpful to rule out whether or not sleep problems are related to something else because they are a very common symptom of depression and anxiety,” she said.

“If a person has a sense that this is more than just a sleep problem they can certainly come in and talk to someone.”

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