Sleep deprivation takes its toll on student life


| Infographic by Courtney Williams

Every semester students become overwhelmed with school work, as assignment deadlines and mid-terms approach, they begin to lose sleep.

Economics junior Andrew Ordonez is taking 15 credit hours this semester and works at a restaurant 9-15 hours a week. Ordonez said he averages about five or six hours of sleep a night.

“Every morning pretty much I have to get up at five,” Ordonez said. “I usually go to sleep around (midnight) at the latest.”

Psychology junior Edward Martinez just finished an internship at Catholic Charities, a non-profit immigration law firm, and is enrolled in five classes this semester.

“It’s actually a good time to talk about (sleep deprivation) since I’m currently on 44 hours without sleep,” Martinez said. “This past week I’ve had several assignments due and a test. I could have probably avoided it if I had planned ahead, but I didn’t.”

Kenneth Arfa, MD, psychiatrist at the UH Health Center and former president of the Houston Psychiatric Society said that students aged 18-30 usually need seven to nine hours of sleep.

“I need to get to sleep earlier,” Ordonez said. “Usually I wait until night to do work and to study so that’s usually why I sleep late. Sometimes it’s because I’m busy during the day, but most of the time it’s just kind of hard for me to sit down during the day, until later when I start doing my work.”

Martinez said he has been getting less sleep lately because of school assignments

“Recently it’s been very low, maybe four hours or five on a good day,” Martinez said, “and even when I was getting what I considered a good amount of sleep it was only like six hours.”

Arfa said students should stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends and avoid electronics, especially hand-held screens, 90 minutes before bed. He also recommends keeping work materials, television and computers out of the sleeping environment.

“If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine,” Arfa said.

Ordonez said his sleeping schedule is inconsistent, but he’s considered practicing a routine.

“On weekends, I sleep in,” Ordonez said. “It kind of messes up my schedule sometimes and so when I go on Monday it’s different and it’s tougher to get up.”

Arfa said some symptoms of sleep deprivation are hunger, weight gain, impulsive behavior and moodiness. He said students can have a hard time making decisions and paying attention.

Sleep deprivation can also affect student’s ability to store information, and can cause them to fall asleep during class.

“Students need to make sleep a priority,” Arfa said. “It’s more than merely a sacrifice or a waste of time.”

Ordonez said his 8:30 a.m. class makes it difficult for him to concentrate, but his sleep deprivation hasn’t reflected on his grades.

“Maybe just paying attention in class is what’s affected me,” Ordonez said. “I’m usually on my phone before I go to sleep, so maybe I’ll try to go to sleep an hour or two earlier. But if I’m still on my phone, I end up staying awake.”

Martinez says sleep deprivation hasn’t affected his grades until this semester.

“I think in the past when I was getting through the basic courses, I could get away with it,” Martinez said. “This semester has definitely been different though. Last week I bombed a weekly quiz because I wasn’t prepared for it.”

Martinez said he doesn’t think he’ll be able to change his routine any time soon since more of his assignments are due and midterms approach.

“It’s a seemingly never-ending cycle with sleep deprivation,” Martinez said. “The days you’re finally caught up with everything you had to do, you end up using to catch up on sleep. I think I’d have to make a strong conscious effort to establish a well-balanced schedule ahead of time.”

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