During Finals, Students Feel Effects of Lack of Sleep

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collection of articles relating to student life during finals week that appear in the Dec. 2 print issue. 

Finals week is around the corner and Manhattan College students’ sleeping habits are about to change.

Some students have never taken finals before. Others are taking their last round of finals this semester. No matter which end of the experience spectrum a student falls under, their sleep schedule will suffer according to statistics gathered from students across the country.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Deprivation, “students may perform better if they close their books early and get more sleep before and during exam week. Most adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well rested. Teens need even more sleep, usually about nine hours or more,” which suggests that freshmen need even more sleep than their upperclassmen counterparts.

Students on campus have access to resources like the Counseling Center or Health Services, but according to students, those services are not on their minds in regards to their sleeping habits during finals week. “I think I think I’ve been too busy studying to actually seek out these resources,” student Alyssa O’Braskin said.  “They would probably be very useful, but I just honestly don’t have the time.”

Some colleges use their campus resources similarly to warn students about the dangers of avoiding sleep in favor of studying during finals week, but student Kelly Cousins said that these efforts won’t change how students sleep during finals.

“I definitely do not feel I have, over the past three years, developed habits that I’ll allow me a restful finals week. This is likely because I have always done the same thing during finals week, namely inadequate sleep and nutrition. This school is definitely not doing much to change this,” Cousins said. “What might help would be if freshman classes did more studying incorporated into the class. Realistically though, I don’t think they can do much.”

Cousins’ thinking on the way that classes treat freshmen and studying during finals week begs the question of what professors should think about in regards to scheduling finals week and the workload leading up to it.

Finals week begins on Monday, Dec. 8 and continues until Saturday, Dec. 13. Finals that are listed on the website start at 11 a.m., but many students who take common finals have exams that can start as early as 8:30 a.m. The earlier nature of these exams gives students less time to sleep than those whose exams occur later in the day. Common exams are held so that professors only have to use one exam as well as to make sure that all students of all sections are being taught the same material.

“I do not agree with common finals because I think it is unfair to students to make them have to take finals earlier than their class exam is scheduled,” O’Braskin said. “I know this does not always happen, but when it does, I feel that I have had time taken away from me to prepare. This loss of time causes me to be more stressed and sleep even less than I think I would if they were scheduled later in the day or week.”

Not all students agree on whether the common final schedule takes away from adequate sleep during finals.

“I usually study during the day, and I definitely don’t pull all-nighters so my sleep schedule stays intact during finals week,” Jaclyn Scheel said. “I don’t think there’s too much else the school can do. I think they’re pretty good about spacing out our tests with the common exam schedule.”

The reaction of a variety of students who were surveyed suggested that there was more they thought the school could do.

“I would restructure finals week and make it so that there were more reading days in between finals so that I don’t have days where I have multiple finals all in a row,” student Eddy Mumbles said. “I have had that happen to me before, and I know I did not sleep the night before.”

What some students might not realize is that sleep deprivation can lead to worse grades on final exams.

“There’s tons of people who pull all-nighters during finals week which leads to more tiredness and then could lead to worse grades,” O’Braskin said. “Teachers put so much stress on finals that kids would rather be sleep-deprived and cram all night than to have a good night’s sleep.”

The American Academy of Sleep Education (AASE) which suggests that “with so much on the line, some students will load up on caffeine to study during a series of ‘all-nighters.’ This can have a negative effect on (their) performance, even after only one night of sleep loss. Even worse, people who are sleep-deprived tend to be unaware of how impaired they really are.”

The AASE website read that students who are sleep deprived may be easily distracted, making it hard for them to concentrate and focus, may have difficulty recalling information and may be more likely to make errors in their work.

The AASE also calls for a good night of sleep to help “feel more energetic, alert, focused and upbeat.” Getting a full night of sleep after studying may can help the brain “consolidate” new information, which can help with preparing for an exam.

Student Ciara McGinley said that the quiet hours of dormitories changes during finals week so that students can have as much quiet as they possibly can.

“The buildings start a 24 hour quiet period during finals week so that students can study as best they can in the dorms,” McGinley said.

Students also have the option of going to the library instead of their rooms or common rooms.

“These changes that are made during finals week and the advice given to students are great,” O’Braskin said. “But I still believe that the college can do more for students so that they do not suffer from sleep deprivation. I hope things are better next semester.”