Lack of sleep is a problem among many people, especially post-secondary students. While most people know the physical and emotional effects of sleep deprivation, many don’t realize its effects on mental health.
“Sleep has a huge affect on our mental health,” says Judi Wilson, the University of Windsor Health Promotion nurse in Student Health Services. “Students are prone to [lack of sleep] because their schedules can be off and they not only aren’t sleeping, they aren’t eating right, and there’s a lot of stress at school.”
According to the American National College Health Assessment survey in spring 2012, out of 90,000 students, less than 12% are getting enough sleep to feel rested in the morning. Over 50% of students feel tired, dragged out, or sleepy during the day for 3-7 days that week. Also, over 50% of students rate their overall stress level over the past year as more than average to tremendous stress.
University of Windsor student, Jay Rankin, explains, “I’m just so busy, between school and work, it’s really tough to find the time to sleep. And then when you finally do have the time to sleep, you’re too stressed to actually sleep. You’re too worried about actually getting much sleep or there’s too many things on your mind.”
Clinical Psychologist at the Student Counselling Centre, Dr. Mohsan Beg, says, “It can kind of feed off each other so if you’re really anxious and you’re not getting enough sleep, then you’re sleep deprived, so you’re going to get stressed more easily, get more anxious, and you’ll have even more problems sleeping, and it can become, yeah definitely, a vicious cycle.”
“I’m pretty much paranoid. I feel like the whole day is just gonna go wrong… I just have a really bad day,” says university student Amal Al-Jarousha about how she feels when she doesn’t sleep well.
Many students use caffeine to cope with their sleep deprivation, but caffeine can also trigger anxiety.
Dr. Beg explains, “I would consider [good sleep] a foundational pillar in terms of good mental health.”
Watch the short documentary above to learn more.
Previously published on the30.ca