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Get some sleep

“Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright … sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”

In recent weeks with the end of daylight savings, the nights seem longer around here. Maybe they are not so silent and maybe not so calm with the pressures of the end-of-year crunch.  Definitely bright with lights kept on later and later in your residence hall rooms burning the midnight oil, as the saying goes. And sleeping in heavenly peace does not seem to fly for many of you on many a night.

Does college change your sleeping habits, and if so, does it matter?

College changed mine. When I arrived on campus as a freshman I naively expected to keep the same routines from high school. My geeky habit from high school of going to bed when I finished my homework, usually by 10 p.m., got upended when I became a freshman in college.

I would still get my studies complete by 10 p.m. or so, but life in my dorm and in my room pushed the bedtime back by at least two hours, usually more. At times I would try to get to bed early, pulling the blankets over my head to suffocate the noise from the guys on my floor who were coming in and out of my room not really caring that I was trying to sleep.

Moving from my own bedroom at home to life in community had its unsettling moments, much of them to do with my sleeping rhythms. I adjusted, usually trying to make up for the late nights by scheduling later classes in the morning. Against my natural inclination, college turned me from being more of a morning person to a night person. After college I reverted back to my instinctive inclination to be a morning person.

A lot has changed in college life over these past 30 years, but I still hear students bemoaning their irregular sleeping schedules and occasional all-nighters.

A few days ago I read an article in a weekly online publication called “Inside Higher Education.”  It unpacked the research connecting college academic performance with patterns of sleep, concluding that college students are mostly oblivious to the quality of their academic work related to the amount of sleep they get.

The research placed students into one of three categories: 1) students who are at their best in the morning; 2) flexible students who have no strong preference one way or the other; and 3) students who worked better at night. The number of students who identified themselves as either a morning person or an evening person was about equal. Most, however, were in the middle.

The largest difference was between morning and evening students. The survey found that almost half of the morning types spent more than 16 hours a week studying compared to 38 percent of evening types. The difference was noticed in stronger results for morning students in quantitative reasoning and learning strategies. Furthermore, “evening-type students were nearly twice as likely to spend more than 16 hours a week relaxing and socializing compared to morning-type students.”

This is not a plea for you night owls to become early birds. But sleep matters. As you are now in the home stretch of the semester, keep your sleep habits healthy.

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