Last week, the Western Kentucky University Senate approved a proposal to severely cut the number of classes that begin earlier than 9 a.m. More classes would begin at 9:30 a.m., and there would be an increase in afternoon classes offered. The rationale behind the proposal comes from a growing body of research on the negative effects of poor sleep quality on student success.
The authors of the proposal posited in the Senate meeting that an opportunity for longer sleep and better sleep quality will boost student retention, average GPA, and student engagement in the campus community.
EKU would also benefit from a policy of this nature. Early class times typically lead to problems such as sleep deprivation in college students. Many studies have outlined the dangers of this, including one from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that explains the impact of sleep deprivation on children and young adults in school. This study found that students experiencing sleep deprivation have higher caffeine intake, less alertness in class, less focus for studying and a shorter attention span.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that students who do not receive the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night are more likely to get poor grades and develop mental health disorders than students who do. The Sleep Foundation states that sleep deprivation impairs students’ ability to, “be alert, pay attention, solve problems, cope with stress and retain information,” all skills necessary to be successful in a college setting.
Aside from decreased mental health, sleep deprivation has been found to have a negative effect on the physical health of students as well.
The original proposal at WKU cites research from the CDC that shows that sleep deprivation can lead to metabolic disorder, weight gain, diabetes, and fatigue. Sleep deprived individuals are also at a higher risk of getting sick because their immune systems are functioning at a reduced level.
Sleep deprivation is a real and growing issue among college students. A Harvard psychology professor conducted a survey that showed that only 11 percent of college students get consistent, high quality sleep. Twelve percent of students who do not get adequate sleep fall asleep in class three times a month on average, and 35 percent of students say they stay up until 3 a.m. or later at least one night per week. Seventy-two percent of students report that they sleep over nine hours per day on the weekends in an attempt to “catch up” on missed sleep from the week. Starting classes at a later time can help reduce sleep deprivation and combat some of the negative impacts it has.
Western’s policy still has to be passed through two faculty committees before it is solidified, but it is a step in the right direction for improving the mental and physical health of the student body there. In implementing a similar policy, EKU would also be able to improve the health of the Colonel Community.