Health & Wellness Department Challenges Students to Sleep More

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Image Courtesy of hackNY.org | Flickr

Krystal Chen

Do you routinely fail to obtain eight hours of quality sleep at night? Is the sense of fatigue, dizziness, and fog after a rough night familiar to you?

According to Health Research Funding, approximately 73 percent of university students report that they struggle with sleeping disorders to some extent. Chronic sleep deprivation poses a substantial threat to students’ health by causing problems such as obesity, diabetes, and depression.

To help students thrive while dealing with overwhelming deadlines and midterms as they cope with performance-inhibiting sleep problems, UCSB has a new solution. Starting May 2, the UCSB Department of Health & Wellness is running a one-week sleep challenge for night owls, guiding students to a more balanced and productive lifestyle.

For each day during the challenge, the department will set a primary sleep goal and several sleep instructions for participants. These goals are formulated to gradually alter individuals’ sleeping habits and mitigate their sleep problems by leading them to achieve optimal sleep each night.

For example, waking up at the same time everyday and engaging in a relaxing routine before sleeping are two of the listed goals that participants can reach to earn points. “By training your body to maintain the same pattern before bed, over time, your body tends to form anticipation in which you will automatically shift to the sleep mode when the expected time approaches,” said Michael K. Takahara, a Health & Wellness Health Education specialist, during an interview with The Bottom Line.

Every instruction, like eliminating electronic usage approximately an hour before bed, is designed according to concrete scientific reasoning. “Admittedly, currently, it is comparatively infeasible to keep electronic devices away for over an hour. However, scientific researches have proven that artificial light tends to stimulate our brain,” Takahara said.

Psychologically, the short-wavelength blue light emitted by tablets and phones manipulates our internal clock by suppressing the generation of “sleep-inducing hormone melatonin,” according to National Sleep Function. The light from these devices delays our sleep time and induces chronic sleep deficiency.

To participate in the challenge, students are not required to hit all targets that the department provides. Instead, they can freely choose the one that is more achievable and effective for themselves. The aim of this program is to teach students basic but beneficial techniques which can be applied to daily life to deal with sleep issues.

“Seven days are definitely not enough to form a habit or generate distinct effects but what we are trying to accomplish is to introduce multiple sleep strategies to suit different students,” Takahara said. The department plans to circulate this challenge and upgrade it according to the result every year so that students consistently pursue the most effective solutions to their sleep problems.

To encourage students to join the challenge, the Department of Health & Wellness designed a point system so that participants will earn sleep points for prizes after they accomplish each target. All students need to do is fill in personal information about their sleep and upload achievements each day.

Participants will earn 100 sleep points per day for publishing their achieved goals and extra points for completing surveys. Students with over 1,000 sleep points can win a prize through a lottery system. The detailed information about the prizes is provided at the Department of Health & Wellness Website.

It’s never too late to join the challenge. The department will count the sleep points on May 9, but they will leave the challenge open for students who want to participate later.

Overall, the website serves as a booklet intended to present students with a more comfortable and healthy way to sleep. Aside from students with sleep concerns, the department welcomes every student to engage in the activity and strive to experience a more balanced and productive lifestyle.

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