BC Students Need More Sleep
Sweet Dreamzzz Campaign Has Brought Attention to a Lacking Need
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The one thing that students at Boston College wish they had more of, besides Chobani yogurt in the dining halls? It’s probably sleep.
Especially now, during midterms season, everyone’s sleep banks are most likely running low and students are not sitting upright in their classrooms after staying up all night to study or write papers. Regardless of academic timing, however, students in college tend to never really be satisfied with the amount of sleep they are getting, what with being full time students, leaders, interns, or employees, and having social lives.
At BC, the Office for Health Promotion (OHP) is attempting to counteract this harrowing trend of the sleep cycle of college kids with an official campaign for sleep health called Sweet Dreamzzz. Its goal is to aid students in recognizing what factors prevent healthy sleep, and to help them find efficient ways to cope with unhealthy habits.
“[Sweet Dreamzzz] has three different stages. The first stage that we’re currently in right now is called ‘Sleep for Health.’ It’s for BC students to learn about sleep, the importance of it, the common barriers to sleep, and how they can get good quantity and quality of sleep,” said Joan Kwiatek, a graduate assistant in OHP.
Everyone is aware that sleep is vital, but oftentimes students put sleep as a side priority when it comes to finishing homework on time or studying for an upcoming test. Sleep is generally appreciated and enjoyed, but students often do not stop to ask why.
“The first phase is designed at increasing motivation for why you should pay attention to sleep and why you might want to make some adjustments, perhaps if you’re not satisfied with your sleep. The message is around the benefits of a getting a good night’s sleep from a health perspective and what the risks associated with not getting enough sleep are, and how that negatively impacts your health,” said Robyn Priest, associate director of OHP.
Some common health effects that students feel when they are not getting enough sleep are anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as a lower ability to function, focus, and pay attention during the day. Furthermore, the OHP focuses on sleep as a lens for how students perform academically in college: the campaign aims to inform students about just how much sleep impacts how well they do in their studies.
On Oct. 4, as part of the Sweet Dreamzzz campaign, OHP had a sleep talk and brought in sleep expert Roxanne Pritchard to help inform students of these effects of sleep deprivation.
“The academic piece is something that’s motivating for students, because it’s their ‘here and now.’ Students may not be stressing about how not getting enough sleep will impact their long-term health, [but] definitely for their short-term and academic goals it’s helpful to think of that piece and how sleep can help with memory and be a helpful study tool, which is what Roxanne Pritchard talked about,” said Betsy Cook, administrative assistant in OHP.
Pritchard was also able to shed professional light on how sleep works in improving the lives of students, which OHP hopes will help motivate students to achieve more sleep on a regular basis. “There are important things that happen cognitively with your brain while you’re sleeping: it’s actually solidifying the learnings of the day and memories, and your athletic performance is affected [by this] as well. Some athletes have dreams about their sports, and that’s part of how they consolidate all the learning of the day. So it’s very important that you get enough sleep, but also that you reach that deep sleep where that type of stuff happens,” Priest said.
A strategy that very likely hit home for many BC students that Pritchard employed at the sleep talk was to show how sleep deprivation, when it is continuous, can cause similar effects to a person that drinking alcohol does. “[Pritchard] also compared the impact of sleep deprivation to impairment from drinking. [She gave] an approximate BAC level that would compare to a certain number of sleep deprivation hours. If you’re sleep deprived, it mimics some of the effects of impairment from drinking, like slower reaction time, slurred speech, etc.” Priest said.
On its website, the OHP mentions facts about how stellar the student is usually correlates with the amount of sleep he or she gets, or how early he or she goes to bed and wakes up. Along with these facts, Sweet Dreamzzz highlights the negative effects that students incur by inviting sleep deprivation into their lives through a “Sleep for Health” infographic that will be posted as a 6-foot poster in the Plex, Health Services, and Counseling Services on campus. Some notables on the infographic are that sleeping five hours or fewer a night may increase mortality risk by as much as 15 percent, and that a few all-nighters can lower your GPA.