By Minouka Kuipers
— In case you are reading this with drowsy eyes because you weren’t able to fall asleep last night, don’t worry because you are not alone. Insufficient sleep and irregular sleep wake patterns are alarmingly high in young adolescents, especially in university students. At AUC, students are busy with homework, part-time jobs, and socialising which can make it difficult to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Despite the business that comes with being a student at an honors college, lack of time is not the only reason students aren’t well-rested. Survey results conducted through the ‘Excellent and Diverse’ Facebook page show that 78% of 80 respondents have had trouble sleeping in the dorms and 65% stated that emotional and academic stress negatively impact their sleep. Lanie Preston, a third-year student, has been struggling with insomnia since her first year at AUC and has an average sleep cycle of four hours during periods in which there is a lot of stress.
Then there is the noise, which travels easily through a space like the dorms where students live in close proximity to another. Parties, slamming of doors and loud laughter late into the night are bothersome for people like Romy Coers, another third-year, who likes to go to bed early. “In my first year I often called the Residence Assistants for help but eventually I accepted noise at night is just the reality of dorm life,” Coers says.
To combat sleep problems, students have tried many things, including incorporating more exercise into their lives, restricting their usage of electronic devices before bedtime, and also using CBD or THC. Carmen Koppert, third-year student, used a ‘Somnox Sleep Robot’ to help her sleep. Koppert’s parents purchased the robot from her then-boyfriend, who was the founder of the company. The robot adapts to your breathing rate as you are trying to fall asleep, and Koppert used it for a time. But Koppert stopped using the robot as it began having the reverse effect when she broke up with her boyfriend. “Instead of making me rest, the robot was giving me bad dreams,” Koppert says with a laugh.
Yet few have tried as many things as Preston. Fed up with the ineffective results she got from using herbal and allopathic medication, she eventually went for help at the OLVG Sleep Clinic in Oost. However because insomnia is not a disorder usually covered by regular Dutch health insurance, Preston had to stop the treatment and is now back to finding her own ways of relaxing before bedtime.
Although there is a high number of people struggling to get a night of restful sleep at AUC, not everyone is completely sleep deprived. Some students such as Erika Mier Y Teran Yamamoto, head of the Pangea committee, are habitual nappers — which, according to the National Sleep Foundation, can provide significant benefit for improved alertness and performance if kept under 30 minutes. “Not only is it part of my Mexican culture to nap after lunch, I have also noticed that it gives me energy before an afternoon class,” Yamamoto says.
Then there is second-year student Hyunsuh Kim. With five courses, an internship and volunteer work, Kim is already pretty busy. But instead of taking the night time to recharge her energy, Kim did an experiment in which she was intentionally reducing her sleep to four or six hours a night. “I wanted to do more non- academic things like painting, reading and writing which I would never have the time for if I slept seven hours or more,” Kim says. However, Kim was starting to fall asleep in class and has decided to temporarily stop her experiment and move it to an activity to do over the winter break.
Correction: The original story erroneously described Carmen Koppert’s sleep robot as a gift from her then-boyfriend. The robot was in fact purchased by Koppert’s parents; it also identified Koppert as a second-year student. She is a third-year student.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.