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Sleep Deprivation

Many freshmen who get into Caltech have a hard time transitioning from their high school life to the college way of life. Even upperclassmen, who have been at Caltech for a while, find it hard to manage everything that goes on in their lives. As college students, we inevitably have to deal with friends, classes, homework, studying, exercise, eating healthy, along with spending time on hobbies that we enjoy. While Caltech students feel the pressure of academics, we must also remember to keep ourselves healthy. A big part of this is maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. 

Sleep is a restorative function for the body and it is necessary to carry out many physical and cognitive tasks. Disruptions in sleep and college life are often a combination of stress, coursework and social activities. This usually puts sleep as a low priority on our list of things to keep track of; however, sleep deprivation has numerous negative repercussions. Negative effects include memory problems, interruptions in hormone function and blood pressure, and difficulty in concentration. 

Getting 8 hours of sleep per night is suggested, though it can vary anywhere from 7 to 10 hours depending on an individual, who needs just enough to feel rested. Sleep deprivation accumulates over time, and a repeated amount of all-nighters is detrimental to one’s health. To get a restful night’s sleep, make sure you follow these steps: 

  1. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise results in a deeper sleep. Do not exercise right before bedtime, develop a regulated exercise regime during the day to maintain your sleep schedule. 
  2. Substance use and abuse: Caffeine. Do not consume caffeine regularly, especially right before bedtime. It will disrupt your schedule, decreasing sleep quality. Occasional caffeine intake, a few times a week in small quantities, is fine. Energy drinks at the C-Store may seem a good idea come exam-time and late-night sets, but they actually disrupts the regulation of hormones and causes sleep deprivation. 
  3. Establish a regular sleep schedule. This may be difficult for college students, but it is important to go to bed each night and wake up at approximately the same time. This will teach your body to establish a regular schedule. It is fun to hang out with people at night, talking and catching up, but do not stay up until unreasonable hours of the night, as it will affect your next day’s performance. Since academic pressures and workload cause sleepless nights, you must find a balance and set priorities. 
  4. Sleeping too much. Sleeping too much may be a symptom of depression, which reduces sleep quality. Some college students face insomnia, while other sleep too much due to fatigue. A lack of motivation in school may lead to increased amounts of sleep. Those who sleep too much, less than usual, or who have an overall irregular schedule, should seek help for advice on how to get back on track. 
  5. Eating healthy. Make sure you have a balanced diet that includes recommended amounts of B-complex vitamins. B vitamins can reduce fatigue and may give you an extra boost of energy. 
  6. Manage your time. Do not waste time throughout the day. Use a planner to plan out your schedule for the week, taking note of when you plan to work on your sets, and what you plan to do with your free time. Do not procrastinate. Procrastination leads to all-nighters, which seriously disrupts your sleep schedule. Do not overload and take more classes than you can handle. It is fun to challenge yourself, but do not overdo it, otherwise this will lead to stress. Furthermore, a party animal who spends late-nights partying forgets that it affects their physical and mental growth, sacrificing the academic aspect of their life at Caltech. 
  7. Get rid of “owl habits.” College students are known for their ability to sleep in until noon. Their internal clocks have been altered, as they suffer from sleep deprivation because they cannot fall asleep and have to wake up earlier than when their body is ready. Find a dorm room that faces east and open the blinds to let the sunlight in, indicating when you should wake up. Use an alarm clock to keep yourself on schedule and try to attend your morning classes. 
  8. Substance use and abuse: Alcohol. The withdrawal effects from alcohol cause most people to feel sleepy. While alcohol may be an excuse to help people relax, alcohol use only reduces sleep quality and can potentially be problematic. Tolerance will build, and you’ll need to use more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects. If there is anxiety preventing sleep, talk to the Caltech Counseling Center or your house UCCs/Health Advocates. 

WHAT are sleep deprivation symptoms?

Some symptoms include: 

  1. Fatigue: Caltech students who are sleep-deprived will feel exhausted and have frequent mood swings. Furthermore, sleep deprivation is the result of many accumulated sleepless nights, and if a student is not able to sleep as needed, the brain’s homeostasis process is affected. 
  2. Forgetfulness: Students who are sleep-deprived often find it hard to keep things straight. Caltech is hard enough as it is. With the added challenge of dealing with sleep deprivation, affected students usually make frequent mistakes and are irritable. There is a poor reaction time and slow thinking associated with sleep deprivation. 
  3. Puffy eyes: Students who have bags under their eyes may have incomplete sleep schedules. This results in puffy eyes, making it difficult to keep their eyelids open on a regular basis. 
  4. Impatience: Students who get mood swings may also feel generally unhappy. They may snooze off while reading or watching TV, have short tempers and may show signs of depression by wanting to be inactive. There is an overall negativity surrounding them. 
  5. Ailments: Students may experience some pains such as headache, abdominal pain and injuries as a result of sleep deprivation. Please contact the Caltech Health Center if you are experiencing health concerns. 

If you find yourself or someone else exhibiting these symptoms of sleep deprivation and want help finding new strategies to support better sleep, contact the Caltech Counseling Center

Take good care of yourself. College is a time about making the right choices and finding a personal routine that is right for you.