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Should college students worry about lack of sleep?

By Jaslyn Ravenscraft and Alexis Potter

Pulling all-nighters and avoiding 8 a.m. classes at all costs has become the narrative of college students’ sleep patterns, but students may want to consider the effects that a lack of sleep has on them, such as lack of productivity and poor overall health.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that college-age individuals, adults 18 years and older, receive 7-8 hours of sleep per night.


According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, not getting enough sleep can affect learning ability, emotions, mental and physical health.

“Lack of sleep can affect your performance in many ways,” said junior journalism student, Stephen Perez. “The lack of sleep can cause you to fall asleep in the middle of the day, potentially missing a deadline or forgetting to study for a test.”

If individuals are getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep, they accumulate “sleep debt” for every hour lost. Some people try to make up their sleep debt by napping or getting more sleep on the weekends. At Arizona State University, only 6.5% of students say they get enough restful sleep all week long.

However, the NHLBI says that because napping does not produce the same health benefits as uninterrupted sleep, and sleeping more on the weekends disrupts your circadian rhythm, there is no real substitute for simply getting enough sleep every night.

“The most important thing to do to have good sleep is to wake up at the same time every day and expose yourself to bright light upon awakening,” said Dr. Robert Hooper, a sleep specialist and owner and medical director of The Sleep Center in Scottsdale. “The second is to go to bed when you are sleepy, but not too early.”

The American College Health Association surveyed ASU students in 2015. They found that many students believe stress is the number one reason for their lack of sleep, and about 73% of ASU students said that they forfeit sleep for studying at least one night a week.

“Live Well @ ASU,” a website dedicated to the health of ASU students, offers statistics, tips and resources on different wellness topics, including sleep. The website suggests that to get restful sleep, students should follow a bedtime routine, try to abide by a sleep schedule, limit caffeine and sugar intake, exercise regularly and not use their beds to study.

The website also offers sleep-related resources such as links to information on sleep disorders, a help guide on sleep and a video with breathing tips to help students fall asleep.

According to Shawn Youngstedt, a professor at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and College of Health Solutions on ASU’s downtown campus, lack of sleep is associated with decreased academic performance, the development of depression, weight gain and cardiovascular disease, if not addressed.


Youngstedt said that procrastination and inadequate time management are probably the leading causes of not getting enough sleep. He also said blue-light from cell phones and “social jet-lag” contribute as well. 

“They have to shift back and forth between sleeping in late and going to bed late on the weekends, to getting up earlier on the weekdays, and that’s hard to do,” said Youngstedt. “So that’s probably a big cause of it too.” 

“It’s difficult to stay disciplined and get enough sleep,” said Youngstedt. “All of us, I think, compromise our sleep sometimes.” 

Youngstedt also said that college students now aren’t getting significantly less sleep than college students in the past, despite popular belief that sleep habits are worsening overall as time goes on. 

“At least in adults 18 or more,” Youngstedt said, “people seem to get about the same amount of sleep now that we have 50 years ago.”


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