Sleep Problems Among The College Students And Their Causes

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Sleep, a routine that is vital for a healthy living yet most commonly neglected by the students nowadays. For some, sleep is perceived as a serene escapade that clears the minds and reenergize the bodies, while for others, sleep is ridiculed as a waste of time, a symbol that represents inefficiency and laziness. With popular headlines like 19 Successful People Who Sleep Less or The Secret of Success: Needing Less Sleep mushrooming over the news, high performing students subconsciously believe that sleep is a barrier for a successful future, an unspoken rule applauded by the mass society (Berman, 2015). In fact, as mentioned by Arianna Huffington in her book, Thrive, plenty over-achieving millennials boasted about how little they slept, yet managed to remain productive 24/7.

Although clinical research suggested that a small percentage of people did have capabilities to survive with less than normal hours of sleep, this routine was not valid and applicable to all (Huffington, 2015). Human bodies are complex, parallel to the unique systems operating inside. Hence, for some students to bluntly shadow publicized life proven examples that work respectively to them is pure idiotic. Little do they know the harm than the good they pose to their bodies in virtue of becoming more efficient, productive and successful. Many students at this age underrate the level of self-care they shall provide and pamper for long term physical health.

However, when does this trend gain massive popularity? Do not they spend more than 15 hours a day sleeping during toddlerhood? Some argue that over the years, students learn that commitments and responsibilities do not come hand in hand with times, therefore to execute one, they need to compromise the other. The perception escalates when they enter college as that is the moment when most students take loans to support tertiary educations and prepare brighter futures ahead. Consequently, students wake up the long hours with less or no sleep to anticipate responsibilities as scholars and learners. Even if they choose to practice healthy sleep routine, they may encounter external disturbances that greatly hinder their purposes. At the end of the day, majority of students suffer from poor sleep quality and chronic sleep disorder (Gaultney, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to explain implications of sleep problem among university students and possible interventions to combat the deteriorating issue.

First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge that university commitments demand students to adapt new lifestyle different from high school. This concept applies to accommodations that they choose to live in for the entire four years of education. While some possess the opportunities to stay at home, many have to live independently due to far location. Even if this is not the case, majority of students happily opt to live independently away from their parents, therefore having roommates is considered as the new normal. The problem arises when their roommates cause discomforts like random party and noises that wake them up at. Such circumstance was proven by a study made by a group of scientists on 2001.

According to him, 41% out of the 90% university students who had roommates woke up at night due to uncontrolled loud noises (Brown, Buboltz, & Soper, 2002). Insufficient sleep at night can trigger sleep disturbances that affect the students’ activities the next day in classes. In addition, they also function less effectively during daytime due to the unrested brains and bodies. With prolonged unhealthy sleeping habit, their academic performances are at greater risk because they are not able to provide full attention during lectures. Shorter sleep time and an inconsistent sleep routine are heavily correlated with inferior GPAs (Gaultney, 2010).In general, although some students opt to sleep more, external disturbance like noises during the night hinder their intentions which ultimately results to poor academic performance.

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Besides, another major implication of sleep problem among university students is its association with mental health problems. Students that do not receive enough sleep can cause the brain to trigger chemical imbalance, possibly leads to anxiety, depression as well as multiple mental health concerns. Insomniac students were more likely than not to experience extreme fatigue, depression, stress, lower optimism, anxiety and a lower quality of life (Taylor et al., 2011). What happened afterwards was that they would overanalyze and ruminate in pessimism about their stressful life events before they went to sleep. Ultimately, their sleeping patterns worsen and the effects go on a cycle (Taylor et al., 2011). There was also a study showed that constant rumination linked to reduced sleep quality and depression (Taylor et al., 2011). When students become mentally exhausting and physically tiring during the day, they are at risk of falling into depression due to not being able to perform and focus at class at the same time are obliged to succeed at university because of the loan taken and the opportunity cost arose. This situation can result to students having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide if preventive measures are not taken. Hence, it is arguable that sleep problem among university students lead to mental health problems due to chemical imbalance within the brain.

Despite high prevalence rates and severe consequences, only a few studies have examined treatments for sleep disorders experienced by university students. The first feasible option that is currently under development is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or CBT-I. CBT-I worked by having psychology department in the university emailing modified modules to all students over an 8-week period (Trockel, Manber, Chang, Thurston, & Taylor, 2011).This weekly module contained attachments that focused on multiple facets of sleep such as circadian cycle stabilization, relaxation techniques as well as self-administered sleep restriction. Circadian cycle is a 24-hour internal clock that control human sleep/wake cycle (“What is Circadian Rhythm?”, 2019) daily as long as the humans are alive.

Interestingly, experimented students under this program did not only show improvement in sleep quality but also decreased number in depressive symptoms. While the results proved CBT-I to be an effective electronic program, some researchers argued that the approach might not give similar results in the real world due to the small sample size used in the experiment, specifically 19 and 15 (Trockel et al., 2011).However, since it is the most accessible and economically feasible option to all university students, there is no harm of trying in the pursuit of treating sleep problems.

Furthermore, other intervention treatment that has gained widespread popularity among psychologists is a sleep course named The Sleep Treatment and Education Program (STEPS) (Tsai, 2004). This course is an 18-week classes that involves group discussion, lectures and self-evaluation both by the students and the lecturers. A few important topics covered are circadian rhythms, sleep hygiene, muscle relaxation and public sleep education that help to raise awareness among university students. Researchers believed that real results when it was applied extensively at a university might be more robust than suggested by the experiment. Nevertheless, regardless of the increased improvement in sleep quality, its progress seemed to stagnant and worsen when the course was over. Students who dropped the class due to other important commitments in core classes like group projects and field trips were showed to not practice what had been taught previously, therefore presented inferior sleep improvements. Another downside of this program is that it consumes a lot more time than CBT-I and allows enrollment from limited number of students, therefore may not be practical to large universities.

The last intervention treatment of sleep problems is none other than daytime nap (Eliasson, & Lettieri, 2009). Unknown to many, daytime nap is an instant remedy to students who have accumulated sleep debt due to sleep deprivation and the lack of sleep. Because the time allocated for daytime nap is personable to each person, students are able to pick anytime of the day most convenient to their schedules to have a nap. The key to an effective daytime nap is to sleep for at least 60 to 90 minutes. Within that period, a normal human brain experiences slow wave sleep that has the ability to improve memory tasks, sharpen spatial accuracy and smoothen internal body system. This concept was proven by a recent scientific study that found students who took nap during the day were more likely to perform better academically than students who did not (Eliasson, & Lettieri, 2009). However, this type of intervention treatment requires more in depth scientific research to know if it is working as effectively as CBT-I and sleep course. Although having daytime nap is free and does not require cooperation from third party, it needs disciplines from students in order to have it worked out. Unfortunately, not many students are willing to compromise their free times, sleeping in between the busy classes.

In conclusion, college years are a critical period for students as they experience transition from adolescence to adulthood. Similarly, they may move into a new place and accommodate a new lifestyle. Although other factors can potentially involve, major underlying causes for sleep problems are external disturbance and unending midnight rumination. Eventually, students may experience poor academic performances and suffer from mental health problems. At the moment, some interventions that have proven to be effective in combating sleep problems are electronic cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, sleep courses as well as daytime naps. The former two require cooperation from a third party while the later requires discipline formed by the students. Nonetheless, all three have their respective pros and cons, therefore students are responsible to find a method that works best for them.

Still, further research is crucial to not only investigate more practical solutions but also to educate students about the significance of sleep. Similarly, educational institutions need to acknowledge and understand the substantial implications sleep problems have on their students, therefore work hand in hand with responsible department to solve this issue immediately. It is imperative to ensure that consistent research on novel approaches is continued and prioritized for the betterment of students’ health and academic performances.

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