Students Juggling Finals, Other Responsibilities Suffer From Sleep Deprivation

Side Effects Range from Dizziness to Weight Gain

As students prepare for finals while balancing other obligations such as work and campus involvement, many have difficulty finding time to re-energize their body and brain with simple sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation can limit one’s ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. It can contribute to acne and other skin problems. Sleep deprivation can even cause weight gain.

Failure to get at least eight hours of sleep can result in dizziness, loss of energy and insomnia, which are all symptoms of sleep deprivation.

“Students are often suffering from sleep deprivation and don’t even realize it,” said Dr. Clarence Kennedy, a physician at a health clinic in Raleigh, N.C. “Too many nights of forced wakefulness can affect your social life, academics, family, health and eventually lead to deadly consequences.”

College students offer many reasons for overwhelmingly common sleep deprivation.

“There is no way to get the recommended amount of sleep,” said Tejal Smith, a senior Public Relations at the University of Maryland. “As a college student, it is impossible to do your best in school, be involved in student life, maintain a job and still get enough sleep. There are not enough hours in the day.”

Candice Iloh, a senior public relations major at Howard University, who works part time has suffered physically and mentally from sleep deprivation.

“Today I felt like I was going to pass out at work,” Iloh said. “I was so tired and instead of going home to rest like I should have, I only contributed to my lack of sleep by drinking a 5-Hour Energy Drink.”

Although some students can justify staying up late at night, others spend their nights partying and socializing.

Erica Whales, a sophomore majoring in theater arts at Howard, says, “Students in college socialize late at night instead of sleeping.” This theory was illustrated by Chantal Forbes, a junior interior design major at Howard, who explained that she spends a significant number of weeknights either partying or relaxing with friends.

Kenneth Thomas, a junior at Georgetown University, said that sometimes he just needs a break.

“I am an economics major, and sometimes I just party or chill with my friends even when I know I have work to do,” Thomas admitted. “I have to do it to remain sane and not go crazy from schoolwork.”

Failure to receive the recommended eight hours of sleep can become a habit that will affect one’s circadian rhythm, the natural rhythm of the body. This rhythm serves as the body’s clock.

Students who have a slower running circadian rhythm may not wake up until later in the morning or day. “They may have difficulty concentrating, and feel a bit groggy or down during part of the day,” Kennedy says. “They are often referred to as night owls, and find it easier to stay up late at night.”

For students whose circadian rhythms are off balance, the National Sleep Foundation recommends steps to get back on the right cycle:

  • Go to sleep and awaken about 15 minutes earlier each day until they reach eight to nine hours of sleep.
  • Avoid naps during this process.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other substances that can affect sleep while adapting to the new schedule.
  • Open blinds or shades or turn on bright lights as soon as possible after waking to help reset internal clocks.
  • Avoid bright light in the evening.

“Once your circadian rhythm is on the right track, it is up to the student to go to bed at a reasonable time,” Kennedy said. “Depriving yourself from sleep is only going to hurt you in the long run.”