Eric Wang

Whether nights are spent studying with heavy eyelids in Sterling Memorial Library or devouring greasy, cheesy bites after a party at the Good Nature Market, one thing is certain: the beginning of the school year means a lack of sleep for many Yalies. 

With classes, clubs and social events well underway, students’ schedules will only get busier, meaning that sleep will likely continue to fall by the wayside. According to medical professor and Director of the Yale Sleep Medicine Program Craig Canapari ’95, students may suffer health and performance consequences if they do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. 

“The fact is, sleep-deprived teenagers are impaired in a way that people who are inebriated [by alcohol] are impaired,” Canapari told News8.

Professor Meir Kryger — an expert on sleep in the Yale School of Medicine and the professor of the popular Yale College course “The Mystery of Sleep” — shared similar sentiments on student health in connection with sleep, or the lack thereof.

He explained that students may enter a so-called “sleep debt” if they do not sleep enough for multiple days in a row.

“Let’s say you only sleep four to five hours a night, after about a week, you are as tired during the daytime as if you hadn’t slept at all,” Kryger said. “You’re chronically in a state of ‘the all-nighter.’ It has an effect on your memory, on your reaction time, your mood.”

He said that these effects would continue to harm students in their daily lives — he cited student-athletes and reaction time during games and matches, as well as students falling asleep in class and then having to reteach themselves materials when studying later. When this cycle of missing sleep in order to “keep up” in school continues, it only leads students further and further down a rabbit hole, Kryger said.

Kryger urged Yalies to prioritize sleep alongside their other pursuits such as studying, socializing with friends or heading to the gym. Pulling an “all-nighter” before an exam, Kryger added, is actually more detrimental to academic performance than it is helpful.

“Students need to make their sleep a priority,” Kryger said. “No matter what they do, sleeping is going to improve things. [If] they play sports, they are more accurate. If they are an actor, they will have more success at memorizing lines. If they are a dancer, their coordination and reaction time will improve.”

With so few hours in the day, students, Kryger argues, are not prioritizing their sleep and mental wellness. As the semester continues on, this will only get worse.

Taylor Overstrom ’26 stated that since she arrived on campus in August, her sleep schedule has continuously gotten worse due to her busy schedule.

“Before Yale, I had a really set, strong sleep schedule,” Overstrom said. “[As classes have picked up,] my sleep schedule really fell off…There’s just a tremendous amount of work. If you’re not really efficient, you are totally screwed over.”

Whitney Bowen ’24 similarly shared that she often does not prioritize sleep or healthy habits. Between her classes and extracurricular activities, Bowen said that she always tries to fit in time to see her friends and be more social, even if she is tired. She characterized the University as having a “work hard, play hard” environment in which sleep and other healthy habits can get lost. 

Gia Rinella ’26 agreed that Yale seems to have a culture which encourages hard work and little sleep.

“For me, the evident expectation placed on Yale students is to perform at the highest level possible and place that achievement over one’s mental and emotional well-being,” Rinella said. “The fact that Bass [Library] is open until two in the morning and is practically full until it closes is, on one hand, helpful and something that I personally like, yet it also perpetuates the notion that studying into the late hours of the night is normal and expected of students here.”

Overstrom, like Bowen, shared similar patterns of pushing sleep off of the agenda when she has other things on her plate. In just the first three weeks since she arrived on campus, she noted sleeping as little as four hours in order to meet other first-years, stay on top of classes and complete club applications

While it is up to students to prioritize their sleep and mental wellness, Kryger and the students interviewed still believed there is more Yale can do as an institution to encourage wellness practices. 

“The university, as far as I know, does not have a program to deal with sleep issues,” Kryger said. “I think [there is more they could do related to sleep] particularly with the first-year students… Freshmen come from a high school environment where everything is rigorous and mandated, [and] they have no control over their schedules. They come to Yale and all of a sudden they have control of their life that they never had before. Some will find a great [sleep] schedule that fits their circadian rhythms, others are going to struggle and create schedules that interfere [with their body clocks].”

Kryger suggested that the University encourage more first-years to use resources such as their first-year counselors and deans to maintain healthy schedules.

Students agreed with Kryger, citing the Good Life Center and other wellness resources already established as encouraging healthy habits. Bowen said that the nap room in the Good Life Center is “a good start” at helping students get the sleep they need.

“College is an ocean, and I kind of feel like I’m drowning.” Tyler McLemore ’26 told the News, somewhat jokingly. 

One student who was supposed to be interviewed for this article slept through the scheduled meeting time.