College students lack sleep, results in potential nightmare


University of Kentucky student Shannon Frazer, pictured in the Kernel office on 10/14/09. Photo by Ed Matthews

Column by Shannon Frazer

I’m already running on empty. Sleep, that is.

Chances are I’m not the only one in this predicament, though. I would venture to say that the majority of campus has been avoiding dear old Mr. Sandman for the past several days for one reason or another. And in this first week of classes, who is to blame?

K Week exposes students to parties, free food and ample opportunity to get to know both the UK campus and many of the students on it, which are all good things. A little bit of time set aside for letting loose before the semester starts is a great way to ease students into the college mentality after summer break.

But all that thrill-seeking and entertainment fails to factor in something that every person needs: sleep.

By squeezing in so many events to a 10 day time span, students are actually at the disadvantage.

Those who want to be involved in any capacity as the school year progresses must hone their immediate focus on eating a particular organization’s hot dogs and vying for that free giveaway item at events held at obscene hours, rather than allocate adequate time to reenergize and restart in between.

Isn’t it ironic that the age group that biologically requires the most sleep is also the one that is the first to skip out on it for something else?

It’s true: in a 2008 study published in the Journal of American College Health, a survey of more than 300 college students determined that the typical practice of college students to go to bed and sleep in later on weekends than weekdays, thereby interrupting the circadian rhythm (a person’s 24-hour day-night cycle), influences not only quantity but also quality of sleep.

Inconsistent sleep practices can have detrimental effects on academics, driving, behavior and general health, as a result.

Initiating sub-par attention spans even before the semester has officially started is a recipe for disaster.

And yet, students continue to do it.

The National Sleep Foundation took a poll in 2001 and again in 2009 to determine how many hours of sleep students obtained in a given night.

In 2001, the average student was getting seven hours per night, but eight years later the average decreased to 6.7 hours per night.

In a society where productivity is rewarded and caffeine-infused functioning is next to godliness, the conundrum continues to cycle on itself.

Professors and school officials can’t force students to make sleep a top priority, but perhaps there should be some additional focus on this seemingly obvious practice.

This would ensure students start off on the right foot and allow some wiggle room early on for those nights when they have no choice but to stay up until the crack of dawn (and believe me, those nights will come).

I can’t say that I’m any different from the norm in this. I’ve been pulled in a zillion directions in this first week, just like anyone else. But I offer this advice as a veteran to the hectic craziness of college life.

Sleep is your friend. It wouldn’t hurt to visit him a little more often.