Drew Haughey/ Mustang News

Sleep is often a low priority for college students. However, the effects of sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on health and learning ability.

The American College Health Association performed a National College Health Assessment on Cal Poly students in 2016. The results showed 28.3 percent of female and 19 percent of male students found sleep was “difficult to handle in the past 12 months.” An average of 52 percent of students said they had between three to five days of sufficient sleep within a seven-day period.

“We know that college students have a wide range of different commitments,” Genie Kim, director of wellbeing and health education for Campus Health and Wellbeing, said. “So although the recommended amount of sleep is six to eight hours, we know that it’s just not realistic for some students.”

Cutting caffeine and phone time

Kim said in order to make the most out of limited sleep, students should cut back on stimulants such as caffeine before bed. Reducing bright lights and screen time could also help students fall asleep more easily.

Weekend rest

Time management plays a major role in the amount of sleep students receive, Kim said. Between studying, classes and club commitments, people often forget to allot time to care for themselves.

“I am at the library until midnight some nights and then I have 8 a.m. [classes] so I am up pretty early,” English sophomore Krista Hershfield said. “So balancing everything is kind of hard.”

Kim said that if students cannot achieve the recommended hours of sleep during the week, it is important to allow time for the body to rest during
the weekend.

“[Little sleep] gets me day to day but I can tell on the weekends [because] I am sleeping like 10 hours because my body is so exhausted,” Tyler Deere, an electrical engineering sophomore, said.


Napping is another way to combat sleepiness throughout the day. According to Kim, rapid eye movement (REM) research shows that an ideal power nap is between 20 and 30 minutes. Anything longer than that and the brain goes into the next cycle of sleep which could make a napper more groggy when awoken. Regardless, Kim said naps should not be replacements for a full night’s rest.

“Your body is able to handle a couple all-nighters that you are pulling for studying,” Kim said. “But when you get to the point of where you are maybe not sleeping for three or four days in a row, you could appear to be drunk and there are a lot of studies that support that [lack of sleep] is dangerous.”

On the other hand, sleeping too much can also have negative effects. Kim said oversleeping is a common sign of anxiety and depression. If a student notices that oversleeping is causing them to miss obligations regularly, Kim advised they visit the Health Center.

“It just depends on student to student,” Kim said. “Some students really need that sleep and some students can function really well with little sleep.”

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