Poll shows college students get least amount of sleep

By Mike Butler
October 19, 2000

by Mike Butler
perspectives editor

A recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation shows that college students get the least amount of sleep. The poll found that 18 to 29-year-olds average about six hours and 48 minutes of sleep a night. The NSF recommends that a person should get eight hours of sleep a night. Most people agree with this estimate.

“(I get).five to six hours a night,” senior Kate Luce said. “But I need eight or nine hours to be completely successful during the day.”

“You can’t go without sleep,” Robert Clark, Ph.D., the director of the Columbus Community Hospital Regional Sleep Disorder Center, says. “You can’t be macho or magically learn to get by with less. Sleep is a biological need like food or water. You can’t train to go without water and sleep is very much the same.”

There are some students, however, who would disagree with Clark’s statement.

“I usually get about six hours of sleep,” senior Lauren K. Warchol said. “I get more sleep on the weekends. I think it’s okay because I’m used to not sleeping a lot.”

“I get an average of two to three and half hours maybe a night,” senior John Dell’Osa said. ” I’ve been doing it for years so my body’s used to it.”

This lack of sleep can take its toll on a college student’s scholastic work. A student’s memory is the first thing that is affected by a lack of sleep. Other symptoms include a lack of concentration and clumsiness.

Like most Americans, college students tend to ignore the body’s natural sleep impulses, also known as circadian rhythms. “We have an internal clock in our heads that regulates sleep,” Clark says. “And sleep is greatly related to body temperature. In the cycle, the biggest drop in temperature is around five in the morning. The second dip takes place in the afternoon hours. More intelligent societies take siestas at that time.”

An afternoon nap may help a person catch up on some lost sleep, but it will not help make up for large amounts of missed sleep. Also, many students may not have the luxury of an afternoon nap because of their class schedules and may try a mid-evening nap. This is ill advised as the NSF says that a person shouldn’t nap after 6 p.m. as it makes it harder to fall asleep come bedtime. The NSF also says that napping for more than an hour can actually make you feel worse, so a short nap will do more good than a longer one.

College students have more than just bad grades to worry about because of their lack of sleep. The study by the NSF also found that 18 to 29-year-olds are the most likely age group to have a traffic accident because of drowsiness. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsiness and fatigue cause 1,500 of the 100,000 traffic accidents that occur each year.

There is no one major cause for students to sleep so little. Partying, procrastinating and excessive work all contribute greatly to students getting less than the recommended hours of sleep. The NSF has found that 53 percent of young adults claim to sleep less in order to get more done. 55 percent of young adults admit to putting off going to bed to go on the Internet or watch television.

In these modern times where working longer and harder is paramount, a good night’s sleep may become a rarity. So whether you have to cut back on partying or manage your time better, getting those few extra hours of sleep might be worth the effort, especially in the long run.

Mike Butler

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