Sleep cycle development crucial for students

Nicholas Birdsong

According to one proverb, all good things must come to an end. The ability to sleep in during winter vacation is, unfortunately, no exception.

Transitioning from a lax schedule to early classes and even earlier mornings is one of those sad inevitable realities for many college students.

“During the break, the only time I have to get up is if I work and that’s not every day” said Kelci Wigger, senior. “Normally I go to bed around 2 a.m. and wake up around noon. Then every spring for volleyball we have 6 a.m. practices every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There have been a lot of times where I push the snooze button a good five times before finally forcing myself out of bed.”

The transitioning to a regular class schedule doesn’t get any easier for some college students, even after repeated winter and summer breaks.

“Every break I dig the same hole I have to get myself out of every semester,” said Wigger. “The first couple of days are always especially rough when just trying to get back in the swing of things.”

The initial move back to early mornings is often problematic in how it effects students’ ability to do classwork. Some find that feeling tired makes trying to solve complex problems or retain information nearly impossible.

“When I wouldn’t get enough sleep it was really hard for me to focus,” said Sarah McMahon, freshman. “I absolutely have to be well rested in order to focus in my math class.”

Although upsetting normal circadian rhythms is easy and common when away from campus, failure to establish regular sleep patterns can have serious implications for a person’s health. Grogginess, difficulty concentrating and a shorter temper are well-known psychological effects, but lack of sleep also has implications on physical health as well.

“Sleep is very important,” said Celeste Hajek, Employee Wellness Coordinator for the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. “Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, weight gain, lower energy levels and overeating. When tired, individuals tend to crave carbs and believe they are hungry when actually sleepy.”

Problems caused by lack of sleep during transition times or during the semester can also make doing well in class more difficult.

“Lack of proper sleep interferes with student’s ability to do schoolwork,” said Hajek. “You may want to focus but don’t have the energy. Having a regular sleep schedule is vital to not feeling so tired and apathetic.”

The good news: these problems are not inevitable.

“Removing television from the bedroom, not exercising two hours before bed and avoiding caffeine two to four hours before sleep can help,” said Hajek. “All of these things can disrupt sleep patterns.”

Hajek suggests that going to sleep earlier by 15 minute increments can help students make the transition back to early mornings without the negative side-effects.