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Students continue to struggle with bad sleep habits at Keene State College

Jordan Cuddemi

Equinox staff


Stress, cold, flu, sore throat, and sleep difficulties are some of the “top health issues among college students that prevent students from doing as well as they could be doing,” Coordinator of Wellness Education at Keene State College, Tiffany Mathews said.

However, sleep difficulties can be the head trigger. Lack of sleep can increase stress levels as well as weaken immune systems, Mathews said.

Mathews recommends getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night to “let the brain and entire body, mind, and soul recharge.”

According to Student Health 101, an online magazine sent out monthly to every KSC student through their mailcruiser email account, 21 out of 25 student respondents said “sleep pays off.”

Sleep may pay off, but when  Manager of the New England Sleep Center, Bonnie McGuire, was asked why sleep was so important, she chuckled and said, “Sleep, I don’t think you guys get any.”

“When you sleep that’s the time that the body restores itself. If you don’t rest your body it affects your memory, your moods and can cause irritability and drowsiness,”  McGuire said.

Caffeine, caffeine-like substances, sugars, food choices, staying up late, and living conditions are a few reasons why college students miss out on the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

“Caffeine is a stimulant so it actually shouldn’t be taken six to eight hours prior to bedtime,” McGuire said.

“When it starts getting dark, the brain releases melatonin, which helps promote sleep. When you are on the computer or in a bright light it will take you awhile to fall asleep because [melatonin] hasn’t been released from the brain.”

Although one wouldn’t realize, after passing the long lines for Green Mountain Coffee at Bean and Bagel and Lloyd’s Marketplace in the L.P Young Student Center, “caffeine isn’t essential,” Mathews said.

McGuire said one 8-ounce cup of coffee contains a safe amount of caffeine to ingest per day.

“Anything more than that can contribute to heart-related arrhythmias,” she said.

“Those Monster drinks should be illegal, especially if you drink a coffee and then an energy drink. Now your heart is racing and it can send you into cardiac arrhythmia overtime,” McGuire said.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry at KSC, James Kraly, said there is more to energy drinks than caffeine. “The stimulant effect is not only due to caffeine; there are caffeine-like chemicals in these drinks such as taurine and guarana,”Kraly said.

Kraly said caffeine and caffeine-like chemicals are overloading an individual’s sensory system. “We are really concerned with the number of additives, but also the number of sugars in these drinks is just as shocking and potentially harmful.”

Kraly picked up a 20-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper off of his desk and said, “64 grams of sugar. If I showed you what a pile of 64 grams of sucrose looked like you wouldn’t even believe me; probably a pile that I couldn’t hold in my hand.”

“People have to realize and think about what else they are missing in their lives that they should probably get more of, maybe it is sleep, maybe it is exercise,”  Mathews said.

“People don’t realize they can get energy from foods, drinks, and sleeping,” Mathews said. “You don’t need caffeine for that.”

According to qualityhealth.com, instead of drinking coffee or an energy drink, eating whole grain foods like whole grain bread, pasta, and rice can increase daily energy.

Whole grain foods are high in fiber, which can help slow the breakdown and absorption of sugar.

Although eating a nutritious diet will help sustain energy and allow for better focus, staying up late to do homework and study for quizzes, tests, and exams can hinder an individual’s memory.

“Staying up and cramming for tests, which most students do, causes an inability to think, so students don’t absorb what they are reading,” McGuire said.

Educational Counselor in the Aspire Program at KSC, Chris Hrynowski, said, “Students are very busy with their academics, jobs, sports, and clubs. Managing all of this well is a skill and if you haven’t had enough sleep, it’s very difficult to do effectively.”

Full-time KSC student, junior Julia-Kirstyn Olsen, averages six hours of sleep per night in her dormitory community.

“It is very noisy,” Olsen said. “Yelling, loud music, and fighting” often rattles her dorm walls, making consistent sleep near impossible.

Olsen said she reported the incident to her Resident Director and established a “decent relationship” with those who were creating the disturbance.

“Speaking up is usually a hard thing for people to do, but it is what is preventing them from sleeping and warding off any sickness,”  Mathews said.

“People have this sleep deficit that accumulates over time.”

Drinking warm milk, which “trips a hormone in the brain to help you fall asleep” or sitting in a dark room for 10 minutes triggers the brain to wind down and relax, McGuire said. “That will make you sleepy.”

Visiting the Aspire Program in the Elliot Hall at KSC to meet with one of four educational councilors or one of two graduate students can “help [students] improve their time management skills,”  Hrynowski said. “If they plan well they should be able to get a good night’s sleep, most of the time.”


Jordan Cuddemi can be contacted at jcuddemi@keeneequinox.com





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