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Sleep Deprivation: A student's worst nightmare

By Robert Aaron Contreras | Pulse Staff Reporter

Kathryn Nobles, student at Palo Alto College, succumbs to the severe lack of sleep. (Photo by Robert Aaron Contreras)

College students are among the most sleep-deprived people in America. Studies show that college students get about six hours of sleep every night—if they’re lucky.

The transition from high school to college can severely disrupt a student’s sleep pattern, creating an unhealthy habit of sleep deprivation. But do college students need more sleep?

Tiffany Dale, college health educator at Palo Alto College, said, “Sleep is probably one of the things [students] need the most, but…neglect the most.”

Evidence suggests sleep deprivation leads to short-term loss of IQ, memory and the ability to reason. And the disadvantages of the lack of sleep don’t stop there. Some are as simple as decreased concentration in class while others are as deadly as car accidents.

Another result of lack of sleep, one that may alarm students the most, is weight gain. Sleep deprivation has a high association with increased hunger and appetite.

Sleep plays an essential role in regulating metabolism and appetite. Short sleep times increase ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating peptide, which activates hunger and increases appetite. Lack of sleep not only stimulates the appetite, but it also stimulates the desire to eat unhealthy foods, especially those high in carbohydrates.

Why don’t students get the recommended eight or nine hours of sleep each night?

The culture surrounding college students play the biggest role.

“[Students] just want to do anything and everything. [They’re] trying to work, hang out with friends, trying to study and balance all of those things…and eventually that might catch up with you,” said Dale.

Students are also quick to spend their time on the Internet or playing video games.

“I go to school all day. I think I deserve to spend all night on my PS3,” said Matthew Casarez, a Music Business major.

Students also have jobs, which makes sleep not as much of a priority.

“A job really takes a lot of time…I can’t go to sleep until I finish my homework,” said Sean Ritz, a Business Management major.

The occasional late night of studying is bound to happen. The problem occurs when late nights and missing sleep becomes a habit.

The recommended practice for better sleep is prioritization and commitment.

“The body likes routine, especially the brain, when it comes to your sleep. So having a schedule is really good for the body and the brain,” said Dale.

A consistent bedtime—almost childlike in its nature—is the first step to a healthier life. A set time to go to sleep doesn’t need to be extremely early, as long as it’s eight or nine hours before you need to wake up.

Practices can be done throughout the day to battle sleep deprivation. These include avoiding caffeine and cigarettes in the late afternoon, regular exercise, but not two hours before you go to sleep, and switching off laptops, smartphones and any other electronics two hours before you fall asleep—as the light from these gadgets disrupts sleep patterns.

If possible, napping can be a huge benefit to your health. Albert Einstein was known to take 15-minute naps every four hours.

“Naps should be no more than 20 minutes…usually when they go past 20 minutes it’s hard to get reenergized and that can actually disrupt your sleep schedule,” said Dale.

There’s no question it takes much commitment to get yourself to sleep, but it’s more than worth it.

“I think when you realize the difference it makes, you’ll get more sleep,” said David Sczepanik, an Art major.

Student's academic performance continues to slip. Simply put, your body needs rest. You will live a better life with a better sleep schedule.

“It’s just life—you have to get used to things you don’t want to do,” said Rocio Cortez, an Art major.

For more information of sleep deprivation and the costly risks on student's performance, read