As midterm season evolves into finals week, sleep — or the lack thereof — is a pervasive complaint among students. So at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening, Commons was packed with hundreds of Yalies attending #SleepRevolution, an event designed to promote awareness of and provide resources for sleep issues among students.
The event, cosponsored by The Huffington Post, Yale Office of Public Affairs & Communications, the Office of the Secretary and Vice President for Student Life, Student Wellness at Yale Health and Being Well at Yale, is part of a nationwide Huffington Post tour for Arianna Huffington’s new book, “Sleep Revolution,” which calls for a national change in the way Americans approach sleep.
“I think it’s something that everyone can rally around — undergrads, grads, professional students and faculty and staff,” said Tracy George, a student wellness educator who staffed a booth at the event offering health resources. “Sleep is something that people struggle with, whether you’re in school or not, whether you’re in the working world or not.”
The event featured a number of free raffle giveaways, including 13 “sleep kits” containing various items such as Bluetooth speakers and Land’s End pajamas, as well as Marpac white noise machines and BedGear mattress sets. Raffle tickets were drawn at intervals, after Meir Kryger, sleep expert and professor of medicine and clinical professor of nursing, delivered each of his thirteen “Sleep Commandments” — tips for increasing sleep quality.
Among these sleep commandments were “Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only,” “Avoid bright electronic displays at night” and “If you can’t fall asleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something else that is relaxing.”
Other features at #SleepRevolution included free giveaways of copies of the book “Sleep Revolution,” sleep-inducing foods and teas prepared by Yale Hospitality, Willoughby’s, and Chobani as well as IKEA room models offering examples of sleep-friendly furniture configurations.
Peer Wellness Champions hosted an interactive sleep chart station, in which students placed stickers indicating the number of hours of sleep they received on an average night. As of 7 p.m., most participants had reported sleeping between seven and eight hours a night, with a large portion reporting between five to eight hours a night.
Students interviewed expressed interest in improving the quantity and quality of their sleep, but said that they found it difficult to balance demands from their schedules and workloads with a healthy sleep schedule.
“I hope this [event] will be a good start to better sleep and to our [sleep] habits,” said Kyaw Sint GRD ’17, who won a sleep kit in the raffle. Sint said his workload as a graduate student often prevents him from both getting enough sleep and maintaining a consistent schedule for going to sleep and waking up.
When asked about the sleep commandments, Sint said he already knew some of them, but that they were difficult to follow since he often needs to finish work late at night.
Other students also expressed a combination of awareness of the need for better-quality sleep and frustration with the lack of a work-sleep balance in the university setting.
“I think it’s really nice that Yale has an event dedicated to how we don’t get enough sleep here and we need more, but I think it’s also a little hypocritical because of all the things we have to do,” said Fernanda Ribas ‘16. Ribas cited her job, for which she wakes up at 6 a.m., and her classes and extracurricular activities later in the day as obstacles to getting enough sleep. “I think it’s kind of the Yale mindset that you can do everything … [and sleep is] always the first thing that we sacrifice.”
According to a June 2014 study published in the journal Nature of Science and Sleep, 50 percent of college students reported daytime sleepiness — for which the most common cause is sleep deprivation — compared to 36 percent of adolescents and adults. Additionally, about 70 percent of students in the study reported getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night, the amount considered sufficient for young adults. Concerns about sleep are not specific to Yale, but extend to many universities across the country, George said.
She added that she believes Yale students understand the importance of sleep. But often students feel like they cannot achieve the appropriate amount of sleep due to all the work they need to get done.
“It’s just the American culture and the university culture to not prioritize sleep as it should be prioritized,” she said.
George expressed hope, however, that #SleepRevolution would spark discussions on how to better structure student life for healthier sleep.
“Hopefully this event will be a good kickoff to a conversation that needs to happen on campus for how we all need better sleep, because it’s not happening now, and we all need to work together, not just students, not just the administration, but everyone needs to come together and think about systems that can help them sleep better,” she said.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are the only mammals to willingly delay sleep.