For many students, sleep loss adds stress for finals week

Sleep is the last priority for student Emily Johnson.

“I will lose sleep for my grades,” the first-year student said.

With finals around the corner, students like Johnson forget the most important part of the equation.

Getting enough sleep is a necessity students frequently overlook in trying to fit everything from extracurricular activities to jobs into their busy schedules.

According to Boynton Health Service’s 2001 Student Health Assessment Survey, 3.5 percent of students surveyed said they got enough sleep every night of the week. Twelve percent said they never got enough.

Boynton conducts the survey every three years. The 2004 results will be available next year.

“Sleep is important for your mental and physical health,” said Dana Farley, director of health promotion at Boynton.

Farley said lack of sleep will also affect quality of work.

“Students have an impaired ability to self-monitor and an impaired self-judgment when tired,” he said

First-year music student Jake Tews said it is more difficult to focus when he’s not well-rested.

“I find myself falling asleep during homework,” he said.

Sleep deprivation also affects the immune system and makes students more vulnerable to cold and flu viruses.

“Students don’t notice they are slowly running themselves down,” Farley said.

Many students might find it difficult to fit eight hours of sleep into their schedules. When finals roll around, many feel exhausted and overworked.

Farley said students will feel sluggish and less attentive when they don’t get enough sleep. Many will grab an extra cup of coffee or candy bar, which makes problems worse.

Between classes and studying, Johnson said, she feels she is spread too thin. She relies on coffee to help her get through the day.

“I’ve learned to develop very good time-management skills,” said Johnson, who estimates she studies around 45 hours per week.

“I’m willing to stay in and get up in the morning and sacrifice for the things I want,” Johnson said.

Balancing academics and a social life can be a daily challenge.

Johnson, who hopes to be an anesthesiologist, said it is difficult to find time for friends when she is so bogged down with studying and homework.

“I’ll probably be more stressed out during finals week, but when that’s over, it’s over. I’m looking forward to the sense of relief after the hell of studying for them,” Johnson said.

“You have to find a balance; sleep is obviously important,” Tews said.

He said it is also important to take time for friends and studying.

Poor time management tends to put more stress on students. The more stress, the less productivity, Farley said.

It is important to schedule things in advance and not wait for them to become overwhelming, he said.

“Making sure you exercise, eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep are great ways to manage stress and increase your physical and mental assets,” Farley said.