Sleep elusive for busy Rowan students, but grades may suffer as a result

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"studying & sleeping" by Flickr user mrehan

Public relations major Calla Travia, 21, has a busy week ahead of her. She has to commute to five classes and work a full-time job.

College does not accommodate for people attending school and keeping a job, according to Travia. She only receives five hours of sleep per night.

I don’t have a choice in the matter. I have to work six to eight hours a day, attend class and then come home to do homework all night. If I don’t stay up late, I would have no time to get my work complete,” Travia said.

Many Rowan students struggle to find time to sleep while keeping their schoolwork and extracurriculars the main priority. In general, college students have to balance school work, extracurricular activities, a job and social life. Sleep can end up an afterthought.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that sleep-deprived students are more likely to have a lower grade point average. Taking enough time to sleep influences achievement in school, activities and social life, according to Allie Pearce, assistant director of Healthy Campus Initiatives.

“It can affect you in different ways,” Pearce said. “So if you have a couple of bad nights of sleep, it doesn’t automatically mean that your grades are going to drop…It can be a lack of interest in other activities. [Students may say to themselves,] ‘I’d really like to go and be a part of that activity at the Student Center, but I’m really too tired.’”

Travia said her school performance seems to be the same whether or not she gets enough sleep, but she noticed she was not as happy when she was exhausted.

Todd White, a 22-year old dual major in management and human resources, is another student who says he sleeps less because of stress. He is a full-time student who ended up quitting his job because of his class workload. On an average night, White said he gets three to four hours of sleep.

“The primary stress comes from papers and team projects. All of my classes require a paper or group project,” White said.

Technology can contribute to the student sleep crisis, according to Pearce. Students suffer from constantly thinking they’re missing something, whether it is on the television, phone or web, she said. Pearce thinks students need to separate sleep from homework, television and other activities. The bed is for sleep, not personal activities and work.

The times that students set aside for sleep should be constant throughout the week. A person cannot catch up on sleep on the weekends: that is a myth, according to Pearce. Going to bed at 11 p.m. or midnight and waking up at 7 a.m., for the entire week, will help prevent drowsiness.

Developing a plan for tough nights falling asleep or instances of waking up in the middle of the night can help.

“What does help a lot of students, especially those who wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety or anxious thoughts, is having just a notepad next to your bed,” Pearce said. “You can just write down at three in the morning, ‘I’m really worried about this.’”

For Travia, working ahead of her homework deadline helps her sleep at night. For White, it is easier to wind down by listening to music before bed.

Pearce said sleeping before exams is her main concern for students, because students tend to cram the night before instead of studying consecutively three or four days in advance.

“Do your studying now. Start chunking things now to make sure that you’re understanding the material, so that when exams come, it’s kind of no big deal,” Pearce said. “You’re already anxious about it. You’re already nervous. You’re already studying. Go to bed. Give yourself the best chance you could have. Go to sleep. You’ll be fine.”

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