To sleep, perchance to dream…
The nice folks over at The Huffington Post have been doing an interesting series about…sleep! More specifically, Dr. Michael Breus and other insightful authors have been taking a look at sleep and the college student. I know it seems like a silly topic for an entire series, but I’m actually really glad that they picked now—a month or so into the semester—to take a closer look at something that I think can make or break how a college student learns and feels on a daily basis.
Throughout college, I would say that my sleep pattern was pretty average—not fulfilling exactly what the doctor ordered, but not terrible either. I typically went to sleep between midnight and 1 am and woke up around 8, depending on when I had class or an appointment. That said, I also went through several phases of extremely weird sleep patterns, including…
…the no-napper becomes a major napper.
Before college, I was not into naps. Unlike many of my new friends and neighbors, I could not master the art of the 20-minute power nap. But sometimes around finals when late-night study sessions did not mesh well with early morning breakfast study groups and exams, crashing for a few hours in the late afternoon became essential. Of course, the problem with that is that then I would not be tired again until 2 or 3 in the morning…and then I’d be zonky again the afternoon…and so it would continue. This was not a very healthy cycle and it always took way too much effort to knock myself out of it, usually with the help of copious amounts of afternoon caffeine. Sometimes naps are necessary—but I don’t recommend getting stuck in the pattern for weeks at a time.
…the never-a-morning-person starts waking up at 5 am.
Like many people, stress and anxiety affects how I sleep. And during especially crazy periods in college, I would find myself unable to stay asleep, even if I was tired. I’d wake up way before my alarm, around 5 in the morning, not really alert but not able to go back to sleep. I’d end up sort of reading or sort of watching a random DVD…but really just being exhausted. One thing I’ve learned is that even though surfing the Internet or watching something online may seem like an obvious “I can’t sleep” activity, it can actually make falling back asleep worse because of the visual stimulation from the computer screen. Now I know that if I really wake up at the crack of dawn, it’s probably best to flick on my coffeemaker, open the blinds, and legitimately start the day—so I can get better rest the next night.
I think that the thing with sleep, overall health, and college life is that it’s easy to feel like prioritizing sleep is unimportant or even frivolous. But when coursework, extracurriculars, and internships and jobs are so crucial, then so is the sleep that’s going to make it all possible. I wish I’d read more insights like the ones in the HuffPost series when I was in college—might’ve saved me a few exhausted mornings and sleepless nights!
How about you? Did you sleep on the common room couch for three weeks straight? Survive finals with the help of late-night gummy worms and Red Bull? Share your thoughts below!