As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most criminally understudied mental/physical wellbeing problems in the United States today is how the first semester away at college is often a disaster for freshmen, especially coeds. Tom Wolfe’s “I Am Charlotte Simmons” documents this downward spiral in excruciating detail, but universities haven’t been all that enthusiastic about studying this problem on their doorstep. (I believe UCLA is currently conducting a big multiyear study).
One often overlooked contributor is sleep dysfunction.
Many college-bound students start out with dreadful sleep habits that are likely to get worse once the rigorous demands of courses and competing social and athletic activities kick in.
By Jane E. Brody
Aug. 13, 2018
Unfortunately, most of the advice in the article is intended for people with their own bedrooms, which is not most freshmen.
Advice more specific to college freshmen:
- Unless you are an intense morning person, don’t sign up for an 8 am class.
- Experiment to find the best earplugs. When you find the best type for you, buy several dozen pairs — a year’s supply — all at once.
- Consider an eye mask so your roommate turning on the light doesn’t wake you.
- If you get an opportunity for a dorm room single without a roommate, take it.
- Practice your “sleep arithmetic” before you’ll need it. A freshman once said to me: “I finally figured it out. When I have a 9 am class, if I go to bed at midnight, I can get 8 hours of sleep and still have an hour in the morning to get to class!”
Well, that’s a start …
But, honestly, what if it takes you 45 minutes each evening to get ready for bed and fall asleep? Well, then for a 9 o clock class you have to head for bed at 11:15 pm.
What if you only got 5 hours of sleep last night? Then you need 11 hours of sleep to make it up, so that means heading for bed at 8:15 pm tonight.
If that’s not feasible, what about making up half of your deficit by sleeping 9.5 hours tonight? Now the arithmetic is getting a little tricky. You have to start heading for bed at 9:45 pm.
Most students have different times for their first classes on MWF and Tu-Th, which further confuses them.
None of this is complicated, but my guess is that a large fraction of young people aren’t inclined to do this kind of arithmetic if nobody has made them practice it.