How to handle abnormal sleep

Illustration by Madison Cohen

Cramming for tests throughout the night and staying out late at parties can have long-term effects on a student’s physical and mental health. However, in college, all-nighters are common for many students. Sleep is a constant for everyone and can be crucial in daily life for students.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night, but 32% of adults in Arizona get less than that. The CDC also reported that inadequate sleep could eventually lead to depression, diabetes or obesity.

Maintaining sleep regularity can be difficult in college when students juggle academics, jobs and social lives.

Senior Evie Pooyouma said she is experiencing sleep problems in her final year of college. On average, she gets five to six hours of sleep every night. She usually goes to bed around 2 a.m. and wakes up at 8 a.m. It is common for her to go to class without sleeping.

“At home, I can easily get eight hours of sleep,” Pooyouma said. “In school, getting eight hours is easier said than done.”

Pooyouma works as a peer mentor at the Native American Cultural Center (NACC), has an internship and often takes her work home. Her school workload adds even more stress, and she usually has heavily weighted assignments to complete each week while studying for tests.

Caffeine and periodic naps often get Pooyouma through the day, and said she takes frequent trips to coffee shops to replenish her stamina. Between classes, she takes 20 to 30 minute naps to get another boost of energy. She also practices meditation, which clears her mind and gives her a moment to relax.

“I’m afraid that it will start to affect my cognitive health,” Pooyouma said. “I don’t think all this hard work will be worth it if my health is permanently affected.”

Physical effects she has seen are a loss of appetite and a huge dip in energy. She said she has gone several hours without eating and did not realize it. Often she has felt sluggish, which notifies her that she needs to rest.

Pooyouma said she wanted to make changes to her life to get an optimal amount of sleep. She now refrains from doing work at home and completes her school work on the clock. To avoid last-minute stress, she starts her assignments earlier. In order to practice self-care, she makes more time to see her friends and family, and makes a greater effort to have restful alone time.

Freshman Michelle Mexican has experienced similar issues. Her workload makes her stay up until 2 a.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. Occasionally, she studies in Cline Library until 3 a.m. She usually gets six or seven hours of sleep every night.

Mexican has also experienced similar symptoms as Pooyouma, such as fatigue and loss of appetite, and her lack of sleep has negatively impacted her social life. Even when she visits home, she finds herself staying up late to keep up with her assignments.

“I haven’t had the chance to fully experience college because of how much work I have to do,” Mexican said. “Having more time in my schedule would allow me to get out there a little more.”

Mexican has a plan to optimize her free time to get more sleep. To improve her social life, she has learned to take breaks from her assignments and sees her friends more often. To avoid procrastination and late-night studying, she prepares for tests and assignments rather than putting them off.

However, unlike Pooyouma and Mexican, some students are able to get the recommended amount of sleep.

Coconino Community College sophomore Rancita David gets an average of eight hours of sleep per night. She is able to maintain this consistency by allocating enough time in her day to do assignments and sleep. Having designated times for work, sleep and school keeps her organized.

“I try to do assignments over a period of several days so I don’t do them all in one sitting,” David said. “Knowing all of my assignments are done lets me sleep better at night.”

According to the CDC, there are few ways to improve an abnormal sleep schedule. Having a consistent sleep schedule with the same bedtime and waking time and keeping the room dark without any light can be helpful. Being physically active, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before lying down also makes it easier to fall asleep.

These actions can lead to longer sleep periods and a consistent schedule that can improve overall health.