When Are Early AM Classes Too Early?

When I started college, I was worried about almost everything–the food, the work load, the distance from everything I called home. What I wasn’t worried about, however, was the early-morning classes that I had signed up for: after all, I had classes at 7:30 AM back in high school, so how bad could an 8:30 AM class be, especially when I could just roll out of bed and walk five minutes to my seminar rather than drive?

Oh, how little I knew then.

Now a seasoned college student, I know just how awful an early-morning class can be, even for those magical beings who are self-described “morning people”. Why are early classes so awful, even worse than high school? And what can we as students do to combat the morning ZZZ’s?

The answer to the first question is easy: during college, you’re still growing and developing into an adult. Though we might take on adult responsibilities (and drinking habits), college kids are still exactly that: kids. According to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults aged 18-25 require anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Though this is fewer hours than younger teens, who require eight to ten hours, it is still more than full-grown adults, who require only seven to eight hours of rest. Combine this requirement with the fact that most college students usually keep some pretty unorthodox sleeping hours (stress napping then staying up too late with friends, anyone?), and you’ve got a perfect storm for sleep-deprived students.

Of course, some argue, students could always go to bed earlier in order to get those precious full nine hours of sleep. However, because college campuses (and college homework schedules) are often designed around the archetype of the late-night student, it’s easier said than done. So, what little things can students do to fight falling asleep in class?

The easiest thing to do is to just turn off electronics a half-hour before bed. Instead of staring at your phone once you’ve put your work away, read a paperback or chat with your roommates. However, if scrolling through Pinterest before bed is a sacred ritual for you (guilty!), then at least turn your phone on nighttime mode, which will limit the amount of sleep-disturbing blue light emitting from the screen. By lessening the presence of this light, you avoid having lightwaves interrupt your circadian rhythm and thus help you have a better snooze.

Another easy change you can make for better sleep is to ingest less alcohol on a regular basis. Though there’s nothing wrong with a college party, alcohol interrupts the REM cycle and, while it does make you feel sleepy, can actually lessen the productivity of a nap.

Finally, the last change you can make is to just make sure you go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you don’t have a good reason to stay up until 2 AM, don’t! Your 8 AM professor (and your body) will thank you!

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