The prioritization of sleep can easily end up as an afterthought for college students with an overload of activities and schoolwork on their plate.
While taking classes in a bedroom or dorm room behind a screen, it may seem like it’s easier to get to bed on time. However, many students find sleep to be less important than the completion of schoolwork, especially with the added stresses of online school. The class format has made it difficult for students to follow a consistent sleep schedule, find a daily routine and separate their spaces for sleep and work.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Zoom destroyed my sleep schedule,’ but at the same time, I still have to wake up for class,” said Reed Landry ’23. “It’s really more of a mental thing, we still have the structure telling us when to go to sleep and when to wake up for a 9 a.m., even if it’s on the computer. But mentally — it’s so hard to care about a Zoom call.”
Many students said they were struggling to find the motivation to get up just to log onto their computers, which can create inconsistency when compared to their pre-pandemic work ethic.
“I was able to get a lot more done with in-person school,” said Dylan Keusch ’24. There are a lot of holes in the details with online school and so it becomes very hard to plan well. It also provokes laziness.”
The now infamous “Zoom fatigue”, the intense tiredness associated with overusing virtual platforms, has also created problems for sleep schedules, as students find themselves lethargic after a stagnant day behind a screen.
“I’ve been sleeping less because Zoom classes make me so exhausted after doing them,” said Kyra Kozin ’23. “Sitting in the class online all day makes me really tired so I have to take a mental break before I start my homework whereas last year I could just go to the library and start my homework immediately.”
Kozin said since she did not have to worry about waking up as early to get ready for in-person classes, this increased her tendency to stay up later to finish homework.
Even before the impacts of Zoom, students already face a heavy workload during the week, so sleep is often put off.
“I don’t usually prioritize sleep,” Keusch said. “School has to get done so sleep becomes an afterthought.”
Although the term “catch up” on sleep is frequently used, research shows that it typically takes four days to recover from one hour of lost sleep and nine days to eliminate sleep debt, which is the accumulated number of hours of sleep lost.
“I don’t prioritize it every single day but if I don’t get a lot of sleep during the week I will prioritize it on the weekends,” Kozin said.
Samay Bansal ’21 has made it a priority to wake up at the same time every morning, making his sleep schedule more consistent.
“This semester I like to wake up at seven,” Bansal said. “Last semester, unless I had an 8 a.m. I would just wake up in time for class. So now I’m trying to have a routine where regardless of if I have class or not I try and get up before 7:30 no matter what, so I don’t just sleep the day away.”
A sleep schedule may be difficult to maintain without physical meetings, but learning from behind a screen makes it all the more important.
“I think with online school it’s really important to have a routine, because it’s so easy to just sit in bed for class, not really knowing when the day is starting, and not really knowing when the day is ending,” Bansal said. “Trying to strike the same time every day, especially with online school has helped a lot. It makes Zoom University a little bit better.”