It’s official. The fall semester is in full swing and with it comes busy schedules, early classes, late night procrastination, and lots of coffee. And while this is a lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to as university students, maybe we don’t realize the negative effects of our poor sleeping habits.
I can’t count how many times I’ve woken up to my alarm blaring, putting me in a state of panic, and forcing me to push the snooze button—after I’ve mentally calculated how much time I need to quickly get dressed and out the door, all for those precious extra minutes of sleep.
As university students we should aim for six to eight hours of sleep a night. It may seem unrealistic for those of us who have a part-time job or two. Between classes, working, commuting, and never-ending assignments, there never seems to be enough time to catch those important ZZZs.
That might be normal for those of us juggling class, work, and a social life, but constantly being sleep-deprived is actually very detrimental to our health. Already a full-time student and Editor-in-Chief of The Medium, I also balance another stressful job working behind the scenes at the Toronto International Film Festival (as an assistant producer for Red Carpet Diary). Needless to say, like many students I have a jam-packed schedule, and by that token sleep is usually sacrificed and comes as a luxury on most nights. In the last few weeks I’ve been overly exhausted, getting only about four to six hours of sleep a night. I’m not complaining—I love everything about TIFF. But it’s times like these that sleep becomes low priority. We all know what it feels like to not get enough sleep, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if university students were the most sleep-deprived group in Canada.
What we aren’t as aware of is that sleep deprivation has negative effects on everyone. Sacrificing our sleep can affect academic performance: who would attend their 9 a.m. course after staying up all night writing a paper? Your mood and concentration when driving can also be poor, especially when it takes an average of 30 minutes to find a parking spot on campus on most days—if you’re lucky. Other effects include irritability, anxiety, and sometimes weight gain due to eating late at night without exercise.
Our bodies give us plenty of signs that we are sleep-deprived, but since we’re so used to it we often ignore the signs. If you’re constantly hungry even after you eat, feeling edgy, spacing out, and finding yourself exhausted by mid-afternoon, these are all signs. I’m exhausted myself, and writing this has taken me almost all day. The solution? Set a goal for yourself to get a good night’s rest and see how you feel in the morning. We can never really be healthy unless we sleep healthy.