Have you seen the zombies walking around campus? As workloads begin to escalate, I’ve noticed more and more students turning into sleep-deprived zombies, staying up all night to try and finish their readings and p-sets. In high school, I tried to sleep eight hours every night. The least amount of sleep I could get to still function the next day was about six hours, and if I got any less than that, my productivity level would drop drastically. Honestly, I am terrified for what the next four years hold in regards to my sleep schedule. I have only been at Princeton for about a month, but I have noticed that staying awake until the early morning is something fairly typical for students here, even those students who excel in time management. So why exactly are Princeton students sleeping so little, and why has no one confronted this issue?
Yesterday, my RCA told me that he went to bed “at eight.” I was impressed, and I told him that I wished I could fall asleep that early, but I typically can’t sleep until 10 p.m. However, when he clarified that he went to bed at eight o’clock in the morning, I was astonished. He told me that he was up literally all night working on a p-set. My RCA is a smart guy — he doesn’t seem like someone who would put something off until the last minute.
As a freshman, a popular topic of discussion is the dreaded writing seminar. While I will not be taking mine until the spring semester, I have lots of friends who are currently struggling through the class. The night before the rough draft of their first essay was due, I saw frazzled freshmen running around, telling me how they were planning to pull an all-nighter. In high school, “all-nighter” was an exaggeration of staying up until 2 a.m. — maybe 3 a.m. Here, however, “all-nighter” seems to mean quite literally staying up all night.
One of my friends bought two preemptive 5-hour Energies at 10 p.m. — enough to keep him up until 8 a.m. Another one of my friends told me that he did not sleep more than two hours per night for the past four nights. When I expressed major concern for his mental and physical health, he told me not to worry because he “will try to get eight hours on the weekend.”
Doctors tend to recommend at least eight hours of sleep each night, but Princeton students view eight hours of sleep as an unthinkable luxury. Why exactly is that? Everyone at Princeton excelled in high school — they had to have in order to be here. To excel in high school, you need to have some concept of time management. I don’t think that time management is the issue; the people who seem to not be sleeping are also the people with meticulously scheduled Google calendars. Rather, the issue lies in the workload given by professors and in the notion that being sleep-deprived is the norm.
Princeton is arguably the most difficult college in the nation. However, no university should encourage a workload that practically forces students to compromise their physical and mental health. During many freshman orientation events, university leaders stressed how much they care for us students. It is clear through organizations like Counseling and Psychological Services, McCosh Health Center, and the residential college staffs, that Princeton does make a strong effort to look out for each of us and our well-being.
This is not an issue that is felt only by Princeton students. I have a friend at Dartmouth who told me that she is in the library every night when it closes at 2 a.m. and back waiting at the door when it opens at 8 a.m. I told her that I was concerned for her health and she replied, “I’m concerned for you…. You do realize that your school is still harder than mine, right?” While Princeton may be ranked higher than Dartmouth, both are rigorous schools, and their students deserve to sleep. Her words did cause a sense of fear to swell inside of me. I hope to never stay up all night to finish an assignment; however, it seems as though that is not a foreign phenomenon for most Princeton students. As a university, we need to acknowledge that being sleep-deprived should not be a prerequisite for a Princeton degree.
Katie Goldman is a first-year from Western Springs, Ill. She can be reached at email@example.com.