The Not So Big Sleep

tired

 

Doc Seidman Says….

….A recent world-class study by The National Sleep Foundation concluded that college aged students (18-25 years old) need seven to nine hours of sleep a night.  Studies also show that while some college students get plenty of good sleep, most fall about one to two hours short every night. That might not seem like a big deal but over the course of a week, a month, or a semester, it adds up.

It’s easy to see why. The college years are loaded with non-sleep activities such as academics, long hours at work so you can pay for college, and a healthy amount of socializing. Often, a good night’s sleep is just plain unattainable.

Walk around any college campus and you can see students catching up- or napping up- on the missing one to two hours of sleep in a variety of places. The college library is always a good place to observe many a student catching a few winks. Quiet spots can be found all over the library and even if you are not sleep deprived it is often hard to stay awake in such a peaceful setting. You might also see students snoozing away in a quiet corner of the recreation center, the dining hall, or any other hidden spot on campus.

Of course, many students wind up catching their zzzs in the college classroom. More often than not, you cannot blame them as the teacher is just plain boring. He or she drones on about European History, Organic Chemistry, or whatever else the average student doesn’t care much about, and dozing off can’t be avoided. Like the library, it’s tough for anyone to stay awake during those circumstances. Other times a long in-class movie- or even a short movie-  in a dark classroom will do the trick. Even if a student has every intention to watch the video, the combination of dialogue and a dark room changes the setting from attentive to siesta.

Ask any student, however, and they will tell you that they would prefer to do their sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and not an uncomfortable college desk. So, what’s preventing everyone from more bed sleeping and less campus catnaps? A major culprit would be the assortment of items college students typically consume. Foods many students consume regularly can interfere with the pleasant rhythms of a good night’s sleep.  Aside from sugar and grease, this would include the consumption of caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol. These three beverages are practically “food groups” during the college years. They are hard to avoid. Other stimulants such as “speed,” be it prescription, over the counter, and/or from your local black-market dealer, contribute mightily to nighttime sleep deprivation as well. That’s almost a no-brainer. Even someone totally sleep deprived can tell you that.

Technology also plays a big part in collegiate insomnia. Any type of technology use within the hour before bedtime greatly reduces the chances of a restful night sleep. Sorry to say everyone, but this includes texting, sexting, and video games. Snapchat and Instagram are also no-nos. So is cramming to finish a paper. That is not good either so don’t cram. Get that paper done in a timely manner. Your professors can tell. Trust me.

The problems associated with sleep deprivation include an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Sadly, these issues are already all too common on campus. Physical health issues can also arise from sleep deprivation making you more prone to get sick. You can become irritated more easily and attentive listening becomes troublesome. Another popular college activity is impacted too. Less sleep impacts sexual activity, leading to not only less drive, but less enjoyment.

So, what’s a college student to do? Achieving the recommended daily dose of sleep is certainly something easier said than done. Aside from cutting back on Red Bull and Budweiser, sleep researchers will tell you to put your technology away before bedtime. Creating a sleep conducive environment can also help. Keep your room dark, comfortable and cool. Try- as best you can, to create a regular sleep routine. Avoid going to sleep too late and stay away from rich foods before bedtime. For those still smoking cigarettes, know that they, and all tobacco products, are stimulants and will force your body to stay awake rather than go to sleep. Scientists also recommend using your bed for sleep and sex only and avoid using as a substitute for furniture. If you live in a dorm and your bed is really your only furniture, I don’t know what to tell you. Good luck with that.

I can tell you that there is little doubt that a good night sleep has a positive relationship with good health. There is not much more important than that. Except, perhaps that students that get six hours or less of sleep a night have a lower G.P.A. than those who get eight or more hours. So, if you are having a hard time keeping up with your coursework, get more sleep out of the classroom than in it.

Cigarette?

cigarette

Doc Seidman Says………

………When it comes to buying condoms and cigarettes, what’s the difference between the 1960’s and today?

Today, a customer walks into a drug store and says, “Give me a box of condoms!”…… and then whispers to the clerk, “Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too.”

Welcome to the year 2018, where sex is in and cigarette smoking is out.

Or, is it? While only 15.5% of U.S. adults admit to smoking cigarettes, that number is almost double for college students. So, what gives?

Cigarette smoking is still reported to be relatively popular in the college environment. There are several reasons for this. For one, many say that smoking cigarettes is considered a rite of passage in college. It is part of the newfound freedom being away from home brings. It’s right up there with drinking beer and pulling an all-nighter. Others claim the social aspect of smoking is what starts them, and keeps them lighting up. They say that smokers can bond with other smokers as they stand outside in the cold, puffing away.  Walking outside a bar or restaurant and joining another smoker in friendly conversation is easy to do. Asking for a cigarette or match gets the conversation started and sows the seeds of a special bond.

Also, many people, women most notably, use cigarettes as an appetite suppressant and a useful step in weight control. Others think it’s cool. Some use it as an excuse to step away from a dull conversation. The thought being that stepping away to light and smoke a cigarette might be a better alternative than hearing about how well Fred did on the Chemistry test. Some students state that cigarette smoking reduces anxiety. It can be an excuse for a study break, a way to combat boredom, and/or a way to relax after a sex romp. For many, however, cigarette smoking is just plain addictive.

Interestingly, half of the 33% of college smokers don’t consider themselves to be habitual smokers and declare that they will give up the habit after college. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t happen. As any habitual smoker will tell you, giving up the habit is easier said than done.

Colleges often try and help students quit, but many anti-smoking advocates feel they do not do enough. Obviously, it’s in the school’s interest to wean students off cigarettes. Like any environment, a healthy population is a happy population. (And yes, not smoking cigarettes is healthier than smoking cigarettes.) Colleges host anti- smoking drives and wellness clinics. They make the campus tobacco free, forcing smokers to the fringe of the campus to light up. They provide smoking cessation classes, prominently display anti-smoking posters and distribute flyers. Some colleges have begun promoting anti-smoking apps such as QuitNet and SmokLog. Many even make nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gums available at no or low cost through the college insurance plan.

Of course, cigarette smoking is only one aspect of tobacco use on campus. Chewing tobacco, vaping, and cigar smoking are becoming more popular. For every student who manages to quit cigarettes, someone else arrives on campus seemingly taking their place, vape pipe in tow.

It’s hard to believe now, but a generation ago, smoking cigarettes was an accepted part of the classroom experience. Thirty or so years ago, ashtrays could be found on classroom desks. Students were free to light up and puff away while the professor was discussing Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Nixon. Students could toke away on a Marlborough while reviewing the Periodic Table of Elements without fear of violating any school rule or policy. And if an ashtray wasn’t provided, a Styrofoam cup, Coca-Cola can, or leftover baked potato from lunch worked just fine.

Professors also used to stand in the front of the class and smoke. I’m guessing many a prof took a deep drag off a Raleigh to not only stay focused on their lecture material, but to manage the anguish over those students who were not focused on the lecture material. All this gave real meaning to the term “smoked filled room.”  To see that scene played out today in an American classroom would be downright comical. Clearly, the ashtray business is nowhere near as strong as it used to be (and baked potatoes are relegated back to consumption, only).

A generation ago, the consumer was bombarded with cigarette advertisement. Cigarette promotion seemed to show up everywhere, even in the student newspaper. Moreover, cigarette companies made their presence known on campus with lavish displays and free samples. Joe Camel was more in demand than your textbook author. But as just about all of us older folks know, public policy has shifted, bringing with it changes in how the tobacco companies can target their consumers. Joe Camel is out; your textbook author is in; sort of.

Which brings us back to cigarettes vs condoms. As our opening riddle points out, cigarettes and condoms have apparently shifted positions. Whereas free cigarettes where commonly distributed to college students a generation ago, today, free cigarettes are out, and free condoms are in. In place of Joe Camel is Carl Condom. Who saw that one coming?

Whereas the distribution of free cigarettes was shown to increase the number of smokers, can the same be true for condoms? We know sex in college is popular, but is it any safer?

The Dark Side

sad face

Doc Seidman Says…

….You might breakup with your boyfriend/girlfriend. There could be a challenge with a roommate. Certain academic classes are leaving you anxious. You feel the professor is out to get you. The weather might be gloomy. Your part time job sucks. You miss your family.

There’s no doubt about it; college can get even the most upbeat student down. What should be a positive, enlightening experience can turn into something glum and stressful. When that happens, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and alone.

Don’t be discouraged. You are not alone. A 2013 survey by the American College Health Association found that 40% of male students and 57% of female students experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year. More recently, a 2016 study by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that 12% of college freshmen have admitted to being frequently depressed. Despite the data, researchers feel that most mental health issues go unreported. Depression, anxiety, frustration, and despair are quite common amongst the college student population.

College life can have as many “downs” as it does “ups.” Being away from home can be trying for many people. Easy access to drugs and alcohol can lead to anxiety and depression. Moreover, academic demands don’t help either. Forget to turn a paper in on time? How about that test you didn’t study for all that well? Suppose you’re sick and miss more classes than you thought? Those incidents are common and do very little to help your state of mind.

Whereas mental health treatment for their student population won’t be showcased on campus tours, colleges are becoming more aware of the mental health challenges their students face. More schools are now putting resources in place to help. They are expanding mental health facilities, hiring more counselors, and encouraging students to seek assistance. Florida state universities alone are seeking to hire over 100 new mental health counselors during the next several years. Many schools are teaching faculty and staff how to identify troubling signs and encouraging us (faculty) to be more attentive.

It’s all a good start, however, students need to do their part as well. College students should not be reluctant to seek mental health assistance. Basic services are usually covered under the college’s health insurance requirement so there should be no extra cost. Moreover, counselors make their presence known on campus and present themselves as empathetic resources. The stigma of obtaining mental health assistance is declining.

Additionally, many schools now offer mental health related workshops or activities under the guise of general wellness as another means of addressing this growing issue. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation are becoming popular activities on campus. Stress relief workshops and general wellness clinics are also becoming more common.

As a veteran college professor, I can say that the subject of mental health is something not enough of us pay as close attention to as we should. We get wrapped up in the nuances of our class and often fail to take a step back and recognize the challenges outside the classroom students are facing. The blinders we so often wear keep us from realizing that some students might be troubled. Perhaps there is a bad breakup with a friend or partner? Or, perhaps a family member is going through a serious health concern or life changing event? The student might even be going through a serious issue with his or her own health. Most of us just carry on, going through business as usual, just trying to get through our workday. We may or may not make an exception to our students for missed work. The paper you may be struggling to complete at all, let alone on time…. too bad. The deadline is what is. See the syllabus.

Ironically, most of us have good hearts and are sympathetic to the frailties of our students. We just don’t know they exist. Rare is the student who self-identifies as having a mental health issue. We are often made aware there is a learning disability, or even a physical disability, but a diagnosed mental affliction such as depression or anxiety almost always remains unknown to us.

If you are a parent who’s about to send your son or daughter to college, take the time to speak with a school representative about how the campus manages the mental health of their students. This can be done privately during a campus tour, or if you cannot visit the campus, you can telephone or email the dean of students. Even if you feel your child doesn’t need these services it is important to know they are there “just in case.”

If you are a student struggling with the stresses of being in the college environment, there are things you can do as well. Try to maintain a heathy lifestyle, something that can be tricky in college. This would involve eating well, sleeping well, and getting regular exercise. A healthy sex life can also be helpful. Be mindful of overindulging in drugs and alcohol. And most important, don’t hesitate to speak to an on-campus mental health counselor. The counselors I’ve gotten to know over the years are nice people who genuinely want to listen and help. All visits are private, too.

Whereas mental health woes such as depression anxiety are common, keep in mind that college experience can also be positive and highly rewarding. There are many great benefits college provides.  Finding happiness in the journey is critical to making the most of these years. Great things are all around. You just have to know where to find them.