The Root of the Problem
For James Maas, professor of psychology at Cornell University, America is not imperiled by its national debt, but by its national sleep debt, which threatens the nation’s health and mental fitness. To him, a lack of sleep among college students is more widespread and problematic than many think.

“I’d say 95 percent of students are severely sleep deprived and that’s because they think it’s a luxury when it’s a necessity” he said, “and so my job as a professor is to raise awareness and raise guilt if they don’t meet their sleep requirement. “

According to a study by Roseanne Armitage, professor of psychiatry and director of the Sleep and Chronophysiology lab at Michigan, college students averaged 7 ½ hours of sleep each night in 1980 and 6.9 hours per night in 2000. Maas said students should get as close to 9 ¾ hours per night as they can. Their failure to do so results in a “national sleep debt” of half a billion hours, or two hours of sleep per person per night.

Tara Fortunato, a freshman at Ithaca College, noted that many different commitments in students’ lives caused them to stay up later and neglect getting enough sleep, which in turn would harm their performance during the day.

“They may not be excited about things they do during the day and that might affect their schoolwork if they don’t get enough sleep,” she said.

Michael Garrison, a sophomore, said he began staying up later because of roommates who stayed up later. He said his current sleeping schedule is similar to that of many people he knows.

“I’d say it’s about the same,” he said. “I think they probably go to bed a little later, get up a little later, maybe go to parties a little more. It’s probably about the same.”

Pat Murphy, a junior, said sometimes, students have no choice about what time they are able to go to sleep.

“Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do,” he said. “I don’t know, sometimes you can’t get enough sleep, sometimes you have to stay up late and get up early for classes. It’s kind of screwed over.”

Shane Irish, a freshman, said his sleeping patterns changed as a result of being at college, going from going to bed at 10:30 p.m. and getting up at 6:30 a.m. to going to bed at 1:30 a.m. and getting up at 10 a.m. He concedes that he should possibly get more sleep because of its importance to the body.

“It makes you grow and your mind grows and your body grows and that all happens when you’re sleeping,” Irish said.

While Irish said he hoped to go to sleep earlier after he graduated because he likes sleeping, he conceded that he thinks his sleep schedule is better than that of many of his peers.

Maas said that students would most likely get better sleep within four to six years of graduation, but that problems preventing them from getting enough sleep, such as young children and work, presented themselves and had the potential to cause unhealthy sleep patterns to continue.

“The more information we can get out about sleep and its benefits, the healthier our society will be and the happier college students will be, and we can bring our society to a new level,” he said.
Students Speak on Sleep The Late Night Economy The Numbers of Sleep
Student Sleep Trends
The National Sleep Debt
Sleep and Your Body
Myths and Facts of Sleep
Further Reading