Sep 132005
Authors: Amy Robinson


In order to help students get a better night's rest, Hessler offers these positive ways to cope with sleeping problems:

-Avoid caffeine or nicotine six to eight hours prior to bed

-Avoid napping

-No illegal drug usage

-Exercise regularly up to four hours prior to going to bed

-Avoid alcohol four hours prior to bed

-Use bedroom only for sleep

-Do not watch the clock

-Maintain regular bedtime and waking schedule- EVEN ON WEEKENDS

-Avoid heavy meals prior to bed

-Keep bedroom quiet and at a comfortable temperature

Lately, CSU's campus looks more like the film set for a remake of a classic 1960s horror picture instead of a center for academic learning. Sleep-deprived zombies roam past all three wings of the Clark Building in a trance-like stupor, reminiscent of George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead."

Sleep disturbance problems are the third leading complaint among CSU students, wrote Jay Hessler , a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Hartshorn Health Services, in an e-mail interview.

Hessler said approximately one-third of students experience difficulty sleeping. This does not necessarily mean they have a sleeping disorder. However, chronic problems with sleep may result in various disorders including insomnia.

"Sleeping disorders are an issue for college students for different reasons," said Jackie Nguyen, University Counseling Center outreach coordinator . "It is difficult for them to adhere to a regular sleep pattern because their academic schedules vary. Stress and changes also play a role in lack of good sleep hygiene."

Senior English major William Strong knows what it is like to struggle with sleeping problems. He works the front desk of Braiden Hall from 4 to 8 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

"On the nights before I have to work, I go to bed at 9 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. On Fridays, I go straight to class right after work. I try to stay awake and have a regular schedule to avoid sleep deprivation," Strong said .

Despite the difficulty that accompanies going to work at 4 a.m., Strong said he likes his schedule.

"Other shifts would interfere with my classes. I would have no time for homework," Strong said .

Besides an unusual work schedule, other causes of sleep disorders include environmental influences, certain medications and drug abuse.

Psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders are also linked to sleeping disorders, Hessler wrote .

Medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disorders can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, when a person stops breathing for short periods of time while they sleep.

Even changes in financial status and relationship stressors can increase students' risk of suffering from a sleep disorder, Nguyen said. She recommended setting up a regular sleep schedule.

"Students should aim for six to eight hours of sleep. The higher the sleep quality students maintain, the more likely they are to fight off illness," Nguyen said.

Yet the importance of sleep does not solely pertain to the body's immune system. Lack of sleep impacts other aspects of students' lives, as well.

"Sleep disorders affect students emotionally and cognitively. If they are sleep deprived, they are more likely to be grumpy or suffer from bad moods. They may not have enough energy," Nguyen said .

Stressors such as homework and bills should not be kept around the bed, Nguyen said . Having a wind-down routine before going to bed also is helpful. Students should try to relax by taking a bath or shower, listening to music, reading or meditating before bed.

If students are still suffering from sleeping problems for longer than a few weeks, they should consult a medical professional as soon as possible. Students need to get an evaluation so any underlying medical causes behind a sleeping disorder can be ruled out, Hessler wrote .

"A number of prescription medications are used to treat sleeping disorders, but only for a short time because they are addictive and interact negatively with alcohol," Hessler wrote .

If you or someone you know is suffering from a sleep disorder, please contact Hartshorn Health Service at 491-7121 to schedule an appointment or the University Counseling Center located in Clark C-36 at 491-6053.


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