Michelle S. Lee ’16
On April 29, The Huffington Post’s “Sleep Revolution” Tour will visit Smith to promote prioritization of a better quality of sleep among college students. The event will be held in conjunction with a “Pajama Jam” event, hosted by President McCartney, starting at 8 p.m. in Room 102 of the Campus Center.
Ariana Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, published a book, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” on promoting healthier sleep schedules and prioritizing sleep as critical for productivity. The tour will visit 50 colleges across the country in hopes to reframe the dialogue of work culture and sleep on college campuses and bolster the benefits of sleep.
“[Huff Post] felt like [Smith] was a good fit/platform to promote the Sleep Revolution and healthy sleep habits, because this is such a high-intensity campus academics-wise,” said Jordan Houston ’16, Huff Post’s campus editor-at-large.
The event will host a “Sleep Zone,” featuring information on Huffington’s book, ergonomic chairs for students to test and a pajama contest for attendees. Participants will be eligible for one of 14 sleep kits to be distributed at the event, containing products intended to improve quality of sleep. The event will also play Huffington’s recent TED Talk regarding the importance of sleep.
“We get so caught up in our academics and work that we sometimes put our health on the back burner, and I think that mentality needs to change across campuses nationwide,” said Houston.
Jodi Tam ’18, a health representative for Chapin House, also sees benefits and importance of sleep, particularly for underclassmen just beginning their college studies.
“I think the ‘Sleep Revolution’ is definitely important and should be spread across campuses to all the college students who pull all-nighters, and rely on coffee to get them through the day,” said Tam. “[I’m] definitely glad that it’s getting out for more people, and especially reaching the first-years, so they can change their sleeping habits early in their college career.”
Sleep and student wellness are not unfamiliar subjects at Smith. In the 2016 National College Health Assessment, roughly 25 percent of Smith students reported that sleep was a “big problem” or a “very big problem,” which is six percent above the national average of college women. College students are recommended to sleep, on average, nine hours a night.
Student life and academic achievements among college students have a positive relationship to sleep deprivation.
“I think this has to do with the national cultural norm — which is amplified at Smith — that tries to convince us that if we need sleep, we’re weak or lazy,” said Emily Nagoski, director of wellness education. “I’ve heard students say they feel guilty — literally feel guilty! — for needing to sleep, which is like feeling guilty for needing to breathe.”
Tam notices this attitude on campus as well, recalling conversations where students would reference hours of sleep as a metric of achievement.
“It seems like a competition sometimes. Sleep also not only affects productivity but also the physiological health of a person,” she adds.
Extracurricular commitments in particular can take up a significant portion of students’ daily activities, and limit time for sleep but don’t always endanger students’ wellbeing, suggests Emmy Longnecker ’19, health representative for Tyler House.
“Extracurriculars and sports definitely play a large role in sleep — many teams having to go to bed early on certain night for practice or games, while some extracurriculars have to stay up late practicing or finishing projects,” said Longnecker. “These activities may impair sleep patterns for many, [but] I think in many cases the activity is enough of a stress relief to be worth the loss.”
Ability to balance academic achievement, student commitments and health differs per Smith student, but Nagoski stresses these factors are all interrelated and correlated with quality of sleep.
“What it comes down to, ultimately, is a student’s acknowledgement that their academic success — indeed, their very wellbeing — is dependent on getting adequate sleep,” said Nagoski. “The choice to prioritize sleep is the choice to prioritize being a happy healthy human over the dominant culture’s guilt-inducing efforts to convince you that your health and happiness matter less than your conformation with its expectations.”