The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch


According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) 2001 “Sleep in America” poll, 63 percent of college students around the country are victims of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is a condition that affects millions of Americans each year, and was estimated to be the number one health related problem among Americans according to a 1997 report by CNN. This was confirmed by a 2006 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, and recently it has become an issue of specific concern on college campuses.

According to, the condition is mainly caused by lack of proper sleep patterns, which can be a result of stress, medical conditions, medications, work, sleep disorders, and personal choice.

“Between schoolwork, my job, and school activities there are never enough hours in the day,” said junior Felicia Teachey. “I usually end up sleeping at 2 or 3 a.m. some nights.”

It is estimated by the NSF that most college students sleep five to six hours a night, while most adults require eight to nine hours of sleep in order to function successfully.

Although everyone’s sleep cycle is different, one thing health officials agree on is the need to sleep. Those who sleep less than the required amount, according to the NSF, begin accumulating sleep debt, which is the amount of hours your body still needs to sleep in order to be completely rested. Until sleep debt is repaid, a person may remain constantly groggy and tired. If sleep debt is never repaid, sleep deprivation will recur and a person will begin suffering mood swings, constant exhaustion, grogginess, irritability and poor concentration.

Sleep deprivation has also been linked as an underlying cause of stress, anxiety, poor motor functions and a weak immune system.

Prompted by the rise in health issues, many scientists have begun researching the affects of sleep deprivation. The most recent findings were released earlier this month by the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California. The findings suggest that the brain needs sleep in order to bring about changes related to learning and social experiences. Other researchers have also found that a lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain and an increase of obesity in America.

Although the effects of sleep deprivation are well known, the dangers of it are not. Heart disease, diabetes, driver fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and chronic insomnia are some of the dangers most health officials list. According to the American Medical Association, roughly 10 to 34 percent of Americans regularly suffer from insomnia due to sleep deprivation.

“In high school, I used to suffer from insomnia because of the late nights doing school work and stress, but now in college it’s gotten even worse,” said sophomore Jessica Sampson. “The latest I’ve gone to bed is five in the morning, mainly because my body refuses to sleep.”

Brigid Campbell, a freshman, is not surprised by the health issues that sleep deprivation can bring.

“I admit I tend to load up on caffeine and binge-eat in order to stay awake late at night and during class, even though I know it’s wrong,” she said. “But there is never any time to think about the health effects of not sleeping or eating healthy when you have exams, papers, and homework to hand in the next day.”

These issues have caused some universities to consider removing early morning classes from the schedule. In 2004, Duke University eliminated its 8 a.m. classes in order to accommodate its students and promote healthy sleeping habits. However, when students at St. John’s were asked if this change could work for them, the response was mixed.

“It would definitely work because people already avoid the 7:30 a.m. classes anyway,” said sophomore Ashley Keagen. “If everyone was able to sleep more, then less people would fail and professors would get more of a response from students.”
Campbell disagreed.

“For some people it’s essential to have class early because they work at jobs in the afternoon and are part of activities that meet later in the day,” she said. “Early morning classes get class out of the way and let students have free time in the afternoon to catch up on studying and schoolwork.”

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