Student Life

Jaipuriar: Sleep deprivation is unnecessarily glorified on college campuses

Sleep is for the weak: it’s the unspoken mantra in the college landscape.

We hate our lack of rest, but what’s more telling is that we love to hate it. We take pride in exchanging sleep horror stories. “I only slept three hours last night” and “I’m going to need a triple espresso shot today” are subtle hints in our everyday lives that perpetuate the glorification of sleep deprivation culture.

A recent study by the University of California, Irvine found that evidence of sleep deprivation is reflected in our social media habits. Researchers discovered that the compulsive use of Facebook is correlated with lack of sleep. It’s a simple, but thought-provoking concept: less sleep leads to more distraction, which means a higher tendency to go online and browse social media.

This might explain why you say you’re too tired to finish assignments late at night, but are perfectly capable and willing to scroll through Instagram until the break of dawn. Social media is often blamed for procrastination, but maybe our sleep habits are really at fault.

Sleep isn’t a primary concern for college students, especially when you’re surrounded by fellow students who boast about “only” getting “X” hours of sleep. And because of the hectic nature of student life, sleep schedules are constantly changing — based on the week’s big assignments, spontaneous late-night adventures and random Netflix binges.

Despite this unpredictability and our indifference toward sleep, we need to emphasize healthier rest habits. This is necessary not only on an individual level, but also for the greater campus culture so students find a balance between work, play and sleep.

Even if personal health isn’t enough to encourage better habits, keep this in mind: sleep deprivation can also harm relationships and academics, which is counterproductive, considering many students give up sleep to keep up with schoolwork.

Larry Lewandowski, a professor and chair of the psychology department in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University, said he has noticed that on average, most students went to bed at 1 or 2 a.m. — only to be half-asleep during their 10 a.m. lecture.

“People are sometimes burning the candle at both ends a little bit,” Lewandowski said. “It’s unfortunate to not be all there, when you’re spending that much money on an education.”

Lewandowski explained that long-term sleep deprivation has historical significance as a torture device because it “can cause negative physical effects and negative mental effects,” causing people to break down. Although the danger isn’t as immediate in our daily lives as students, the effects are more gradual.

For instance, sleep problems have about the same impact on GPA as binge drinking and marijuana use, according to a 2014 study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

It’s hard to take this issue seriously when it seems that our generation’s missing out on essential hours of rest is normalized. Walking around as an exhausted and overly caffeinated zombie is expected in today’s student culture.

It’s an epidemic that has even plagued Georgetown University, an SU peer institution. “Sleep when you’re dead” is known as their unofficial motto, according to a student film made two years ago about Georgetown’s sleep culture on campus.

One interviewee in the film admitted, “There’s definitely a culture of ‘If you’re not busy, you might be doing something wrong.’” Another student agreed that stress on campus was also glorified.

This is a mindset that transcends high-achieving college campuses everywhere because rest, for many young adults, is often viewed as a secondary need — an option. On any given day with school, work and social obligations, sleep is the easiest area to sacrifice.

But maybe we’re making the wrong choice. Sleep should be more of a priority considering the more obvious health reasons and the fact that sleep deprivation perpetuates an over-stressed campus culture and puts unhealthy workaholic behavior on a pedestal.

With trends like binge-drinking and the “Freshman 15” prevalent on college campuses, this may be tough advice to follow, but it must be said: college is the time to build lifelong healthy habits.

Coming to college, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the opportunities and fall back into the old hyper-involved madness of high school that include resume-padding and AP fervor; however, there comes a time when one must acknowledge that enough is enough.

Going to bed as early as 10 p.m. may encourage teasing from friends, but putting yourself before schoolwork is a special kind of self-love.

It’s tempting to think our hectic schedules and stress will be limited to these four years, but that is not the case. Life after college goes on and so will the day-to-day grind. This is a rare time when we are not tied down with nine-to-five jobs and familial responsibilities, and it is important to appreciate that independence and remember that snoozing isn’t losing.

Rashika Jaipuriar is a freshman broadcast and digital journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at rjaipuri@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @rashikajpr.

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