Being a college student means I have more assignments and workloads, which takes more time. Thus, I would likely spend less time sleeping and staying up late. My friends (both Millennials and Gen-Z), who are pursuing higher education and young professionals, have experienced this unhealthy habit, so I have put together a quick survey asking my friends if they have experienced this as well? Are they able to adjust it?
First, Let’s Talk to Factors That Lead to Poor Sleep
Electronic devices now dominate most areas of human life, so the more attractive they are, the more time we spend using them. Researchers have demonstrated that blue light is a leading contributor to poor sleep quality, a disruption of the biological clock, and other health issues related to smartphones. A study by Sleep Foundation found that humans get the most blue light amount during daylight. As a result, we become more focused and alert, perform better and pay better attention, and sleep better at night after sunset. (Newsom, 2021)
Blue light exposure can hinder melatonin release, a hormone responsible for assisting sleep. It also delivers a signal to our bodies that it is still daytime and to be more awake at night.
Anxiety disorders, depression, or stress can affect sleep. Shorter sleep duration can lead to depression. Studies have shown that teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 18, suffer from insufficient sleep due to unhealthy habits, violence, alcohol, smoking, and marijuana use. Particularly among teenagers, lack of sleep is likely caused by peer pressure or an inability to recognize unhealthy habits. Consequently, it can cause short- and long-term health problems and continue into adulthood. (Bruce, Lunt, & McDonagh, 2017). Stress and lack of sleep are more apparent in my personal experience when I have a lot of things on my mind, including studies, family, friends, relationships, career path, financial status, etc. I get anxious and have trouble sleeping.
The workload is another common factor that affects our sleep routine. We tend to spend less time resting and sleeping as we grow older because we have more work and concerns to contend with. The transition to college/university after high school means you now have responsibilities and tasks to handle. Then, as you grow up, get married, have kids, take care of your family, your business, etc., you have a stack of tasks to accomplish that can negatively impact your biological clock and resting time.
Testimonials from the Millennials and Gen-Z
These two generations are now pursuing their passions and careers and making the biggest contributions to society. They are working more and more enthusiastically and with breakthrough ideas than ever before. Furthermore, they do not prioritize wellness and work-life balance because of their many responsibilities. Therefore, I will bring up three faces representative and all the things mentioned above to give a clear perspective of their schedules and how they manage and balance between work and wellness. As well as I will point out tips that my friends usually take to have a deep sleep.
Minh Thi Nhat Dang, a UofT student who carries a double major in Actuarial Science and Statistics, and is currently in her third year of the program. Dang describes her uni life as full of lectures, assignments, problem sets and tests for all the courses taken. Her days were basically occupied by these weekly activities. Other than that, Dang’s study process includes doing extra practice problems, reading textbooks, and discussing any issues with instructors or peers. She, therefore, has a hard time taking care of her health, eating healthy food and resting well to support her study efforts. When I asked her about her general sleep schedule, she said she would try to get four hours of sleep every night. She goes to bed at 3 AM and wakes up between 8 and 9 AM. Getting ready for classes at 10 AM or 11 AM. She would then take a short nap for more than an hour. When she has tests coming up, Dang will prioritize and balance her time studying and sleeping to be ready for the tests, not to overload the studying over the sleeping so that she would not perform well in them. Dang would sleep more on weekends to make up for the sleep she missed during the week. Being busy full time, she would take a short nap when traveling by bus or subway.
Another UofT student, Vincent Zhu, is also pursuing a third-year degree in Computer Science. Zhu expresses uni life is difficult to manage while there are tons of works to accomplish. As part of his major, he usually takes mathematics (MAT), statistics (STA), and computer science (CS) courses, followed by tests, problem sets, and CS assignments, which typically take at least a few days to prepare. In order for Zhu to complete any task needed, a deadline schedule in advance and tracking his progress is essential. He also stresses the importance of the Pomodoro technique, in which two hours are set aside for studying and one hour for resting. He adheres to this technique, so that there is no procrastination. Likewise, when it comes to a sleep schedule, Zhu sleeps for eight hours when he has nothing to do, but when he has deadlines on the way, he has to spend more time on them, so Zhu even goes two days without sleep. Having been occupied with schoolwork and skipping sleep, he suffered headaches, heartache, and body pain. When he must stay up late, he does not drink coffee or energy drinks because of their side effects that are harmful. Zhao tries to live a healthy lifestyle, as sleeping on time is his priority, planning and completing things as soon as possible, not affecting his biological clock.
Vy Do also runs a business of her illustrations as a freelance illustrator. Do has gone through both university and work-life, and her biological clock adjusts differently based on whether she is busy or not. Her uni life was also intense, and she was staying up late to complete assignments inconsistently. She was able to separate her work and personal lives when working in an advertising agency because she could get enough sleep to be ready for the next day. As a freelance illustrator, she can now manage her time at work, relax, and distribute projects appropriately. Do finds it difficult to sleep when she is stressed about tasks and completing projects for her clients. Do would get up at 5 AM, exercise for an hour, read a book and plan what she would do in her journal before starting her day if she had a few things to accomplish. The routine keeps her disciplined and well-managed in her time cycle.
Other than that, I receive tips from friends of mine, as some of them drink warm milk that helps them sleep better, while others take melatonin gummies as a sleep supplement. Staying away from smartphones and other electronic devices for two hours before sleep will help them fall asleep easily. Sports can also aid in deep sleep because the body gets sore and needs plenty of rest.
Conclusion: Teenagers and young adults are at the age when they should be learning and exploring. It’s likely that there is a modification of their biological clock as lack of sleep, sleeping late, skipping meals and sleep time, etc. which are unhealthy and show major health issues if kept up. The more people prioritize their health in this era, the more likely they are to sleep on time and avoid procrastination. Let us know in the comments below how do you maintain a sleep schedule?