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Study: Sleep key to academic success

Sleep: It has the second biggest academic impact at Fresno State.

Students told the Health Center in a survey that sleep causes them to miss assignments, miss class or even drop out of a class.

“We put together our top 10 list of student impacts, and this is what students are telling us affects their academics,” said Kathy Yarmo, health promotion and wellness services coordinator.  “Stress is always No. 1, and sleep difficulties is always No. 2.”

Yarmo said 19 percent of Fresno State students responded to the survey.

“College students need sleep, humans need sleep. That is where you regenerate, rejuvenate and recharge,” Yarmo said.

She said that college students need approximately 8.5 hours of sleep a night, and the survey indicated that Fresno State students are not getting that.

The American College Health Association’s (ACHA) National College Health Assessment (NCHA) on Fresno State indicated the majority of students only get enough sleep three to five days a week, which is 44.3 percent of the time. The survey found 31 percent feel well-rested only one or two days.

Georgianna Negron-Long, health educator with university health and psychological services, created a couch map in 2010 when she was part of the health ambassador program as a student.

“I got the idea because I was a commuting student. I commuted every day to campus, and I also worked nights,” Negron-Long said.  “I would be literally up all night and then on campus from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and I would have spaces in between my classes, and I would always be looking for a couch to take a little nap on. I would never seem to be able to find one when I needed it.”

The University Police Department pulled the couch map after the 2010 school year for safety concerns. University police did not respond to inquiries about napping on campus.

Though the Health Center recognizes that there may be safety concerns when napping on campus, it does encourage napping as a way to deal with the sleep difficulties Fresno State students face.

“Maybe the safest place to do that is in your car if you lock the doors,” Yarmo said.  “That is the tricky thing—we want students to be safe.”

Negron-Long said that naps can help students feel more relaxed and reduce any fatigue they may be feeling. Naps can also increase alertness and even improve some people’s mood.

Negron-Long referenced a 2011 article from the New York Times that talked about combining a 20-minute nap with coffee.  She said it takes about 20 minutes for the benefits of coffee to kick in so she suggests a student drink a cup of coffee, take a 20-minute nap and then wake up and have the benefits of both.

Yarmo also cautioned that sleeping for more than 30 minutes can have a negative effect.

“Do a power nap, and that can be anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour, because if you sleep more than that, your body can go into deep sleep, and it can be difficult to wake up out of that, and you might feel groggy,” Yarmo said.

Keeping a regular sleep schedule, as well as limiting sugary foods, exercise and alcohol right before bed can help.  Yarmo suggested sleeping in a dark, quiet environment or even going as far to use sleep masks and earplugs.