Quality sleep is a major concern for college students, and has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wayne State University addressed this issue in its first Sleep Week, held virtually during the first week of March.
About 60% of college students suffer from poor sleep quality, according to the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment Journal. That percentage could be higher during the pandemic, since many college students are “essential workers” in fast food, customer service and more.
“Considering the unprecedented stressors and unique circumstances that many are facing, quality rest is even more important during this time,” said Angela Zanardelli Sickler, associate director of the Study Skills Academy. “Unfortunately, because of the family situations of many and the need to increase working hours, students may not be able to prioritize sleep during the pandemic.”
Sleep Week was organized by facilitators from Student Disability Services and the Study Skills Academy, according to the event website. Virtual events included a sleep panel, meditation and yoga classes, a sleep trivia game and sleep and stress-related workshops.
Kalyn Griffin, a Study Skills Academy learning specialist, facilitated The Power of Napping workshop on Wednesday, March 3.
“Many people think napping is an effective way to relax and recharge, while others think napping is unhelpful and disruptive to their sleep. There are many factors that can impact how helpful naps can actually be,” Griffin said during the workshop. “Understanding the role of napping can teach you how to take effective naps that support your body's internal clock and maintain your energy level throughout the day.”
Madinah Hart, a freshman majoring in criminal justice, said her sleep schedule has been “horrible.” Hart said she was unsure of the exact reason for her poor sleep, though technology and stress could be factors.
Sickler hosted the Stress and Rest workshop Friday, March 5, which focused on stress-related tendencies that cause all-nighters. During the workshop, Sickler said social media, specifically TikTok, has become a major disturbance in sleep schedules.
“Now that we know more about how the brain learns, recognizing the value in quality sleep is imperative when the goal is student success,” Sickler said.
Quality sleep helps improve learning, Sickler said. Pulling all-nighters to study for an exam can leave students with brain fog and they won’t remember what they studied the night before.
Brenda Silva, a finance student in the Mike Ilitch School of Business, attended the Sleep and COVID-19 workshop Tuesday, March 2. She said she has trained herself to avoid pulling all-nighters.
“When I don't get enough sleep, I notice that I am not on my game the next day,” Silva said. “Having a full-time job and taking five classes, sleep can be put on the back burner. I've disciplined myself to turn everything off at 10 p.m. I tell myself the paper can be finished the next day or I can finish my work project in the morning.”
Griffin and Sickler both said sleep is crucial to students’ health and getting enough sleep helps humans function properly. Without sleep, Silva said, students can easily crash mentally, emotionally and physically.
Although this is the first year WSU has hosted Sleep Week, Sickler said the university is planning to do so again in 2022.
“I am so proud to go to a school that gives a platform for this topic,” Silva said. “Sleep and mental health go hand in hand.”
Roxanne Finniss is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.