Harvard Requires Freshmen to Take a Class on Proper Sleep

Can you imagine a college professor encouraging you to rest?

Traditionally, college days are associated with sleepless nights as students spend their hours studying and writing papers with hopes of making the grade, but Harvard’s looking into how better rest may improve student performance, and they’re kicking off a brand new online class—Sleep 101—which incoming Freshmen are required to take before arriving to campus.

A recent study in the Nature and Science of Sleep (NSS) suggests that over 70% of college students just aren’t getting enough zzz’s, and this can have all sorts of consequences from academic failure to automobile accidents. Sleep deprivation, especially common at elite colleges like Harvard, is all too common and it’s having a severe impact on student health and the extra time studying is not improving their performance.

“College students pull all-nighters in order to do great on exams and it’s kind of the worst thing they can do,” says Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution and speaker on the introduction to the Harvard course, reported wbur.org. “Because memory consolidation is harder, retrieval of information is harder, everything is harder.”

Multiple academic studies published in peer-reviewed journals show a clear link between consistent rest patterns and higher GPA scores, according to the authors of the NSS article, a study that looked at students who slept 8 or more hours compared to 6 hours showed GPA averages of 3.74 and 2.74, respectively.

Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard professor and director of the Sleep Matters Initiative (SMI) at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, believes that improving rest habits is a matter of increasing duration, making bedtime hours more consistent and improving the quality of your rest.

Czeisler told wbur.org, “Sleep 101 is just the first step in changing the culture” and he looks forward to seeing what impact the course has on the incoming class of 2022.

This culture defined by Czeisler is a growing problem in society. Dr. Terese Hammond, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, spoke to the Bostonia about the pervasion of unhealthy habits and our inability to find some peace at night.

“Insomnia is a problem of our modern world, said Hammond in her interview. “Our lives have intruded so heavily on any kind of natural pattern.”

woman suffer from insomnia

The SMI has worked with individuals in multiple industries to study their habits, study the effects of deprivation, and spread the word about how impactful a good night’s rest can be. The organization estimates they have helped more than 25,000 people, from policemen, firefighters, healthcare workers, and astronauts improve the way they look at their habits.

“Sleep deficiency and untreated related disorders take years off our lives, compromise safety in the workplace, and cost the economy billions of dollars each year,” say scientists at SMI.

A report authored by Marco Hafner, an economist and research director at RAND Europe, states that improving this issue could add billions to the U.S. economy, as well as those of Europe, and Eastern Asia. The UK, for example, loses $50 billion per year, though the U.S. leads the pack with a $411 billion loss or 2.28% of our annual GDP.

If you’re interested in the effects of sleep deprivation, check out our superior-rated mattress article to see how a new sleeping space or alternative habits can help improve your life.

Sleep Advisor