Julian Revie ’02 is a typical Yalie — but supersized.
His friends call him an overachiever in a college full of them. He’s the president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, but he’s going to start a doctoral program in biochemistry next year. He’s 6 feet 2 inches tall and has a very prominent Adam’s apple.
He’s even Canadian (that always seems to be good for an easy laugh).
Revie’s sleeping problems are outsized, too. He says he’s done everything he can think of, but he can’t help sleeping through his alarms. He’s missed too many classes to remember, he’s regularly late for church rehearsals at which he plays the organ, and his loud alarm has woken the other person on his hall before it’s woken him.
Sleep experts — such people do exist — say louder alarms aren’t Revie’s answer. The true solution would be much harder than that: he needs to get more sleep.
Revie said he averages six hours of sleep a night, but frequently he only gets four hours. Sometimes he decides to take a “nap” at 11 p.m. or midnight and sleeps until 4 a.m. Sometimes he sets his alarm for 6:30 a.m. — he thinks he’s a morning person — and then hits snooze every six minutes, for two or three hours.
Adam Ecker ’02, who lives across the hall from Revie, tends not to appreciate this so much, especially when Revie is using the highest setting on his Radio Shack Super Loud Alarm Clock.
“Isn’t it really loud?” Ecker asked, after I told him Revie had demonstrated the alarm for me.
Ecker, a cognitive science major, says he thinks more alarms aren’t the solution — Revie already has four.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with loudness,” Ecker said.
He’s right, although his suggestion — “every morning they should do something different, like animal noises” — might not work either.
Most people who have trouble waking up in the morning are not getting enough sleep, are sleeping at the wrong times or are varying their sleep schedule too much, said Dr. Janet Hilbert of the Yale Center for Sleep Medicine.
College students need about eight hours of sleep a day, ideally in one block, and it’s more beneficial if they sleep at night and on a regular schedule, Hilbert said. If they follow this regimen, most people should have little trouble waking up after seven or eight hours of sleep, even without an alarm.
Clearly, very few college students can do what the doctor orders.
If you’re having trouble waking up in the morning or are falling asleep in lecture, you’re sleep-deprived, Hilbert said. And that can have more serious consequences than we realize. One recent study found that young healthy men who were restricted to four hours of sleep a night had elevated blood glucose levels near those of diabetics. Half the crashes caused by drowsy drivers involve people under 25.
Hilbert said that if you can’t get eight hours of sleep a night, naps are fine, but it might be a good idea to avoid sleeping for around 90 minutes. That seems to be the time when REM sleep starts and so you should sleep a bit more or a bit less than 90 minutes, or else the nap might not be that restful.
Also, the natural circadian rhythms make people tired around 2 p.m., so that’s a good time to nap.
More sleep, however, was not the solution Revie was looking for.
“That’s just not a solution that’s going to work for most college students,” Revie said. “It’s a combination of being too busy and making myself too busy.”
I asked Revie why he sets his alarm for 6:30 a.m. if he knows he’s going to sleep through it anyway — Hilbert particularly recommends against that because it fragments the last few hours of sleep and makes them less restful.
Revie just laughed and said, “Because I think I’ll be able to get up at 6:30. I don’t know why.”
A disclosure and a plea: Revie and Ecker are friends of mine. I’m writing about them because I haven’t gotten submissions at firstname.lastname@example.org yet. Please send me problems. They can be about anything you think I might be able to help you with, including consumer problems, government issues, dining hall quibbles and facilities snafus. I really want to help.