Scholar shares tips for better quality sleep

By BRIANNA DANG | March 8, 2018



Susheel Patil explored the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.

The Center for Health Education & Wellness (CHEW) and Nu Rho Psi, the neuroscience honor society, co-sponsored a talk titled “Sleep 101” on Tuesday. Susheel Patil, clinical director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Medicine Program, spoke at the talk about common sleep disorders. 

Patil discussed the science behind sleep deprivation and gave tips about making the most out of the sleep you get. He opened the talk by emphasizing the relationship between sleep and health with a quote from Elizabethan author Thomas Dekker.

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together,” Patil said.

According to Patil, sleep deprivation is the most pervasive issue among those suffering from sleep disorders. He discussed the detrimental impact that lack of sleep has on physical and mental health. 

Patil estimated that 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder, a majority of which are chronic. Despite this, Patil stated, those with sleep disorders usually refrain from seeking help from physicians. Patil explained that most physicians lack training about sleep disorders.

Societal stigma is another issue that arises when discussing sleep, according to Patil. He found that people rarely felt comfortable discussing the toll sleep deprivation takes on their health. 

“In terms of our society, we tend to equate sleepiness with laziness,” Patil said. 

He explained that a person who continues to work despite a lack of sleep is often perceived as strong. He strongly disagreed with this perception, stating that people perform better when they get more rest. 

According to Patil, sleep deprivation stems not only from a societal devaluation of sleep, but also from an intensive academic environment. 

Patil cited U.S. News & World Report when discussing the impact that academic rigor has on sleep habits. According to one study, a university’s rank correlates with how much its students sleep. Patil stated that the higher a school’s ranking is, the later its students go to sleep.

Sophomore Sage Otterson, a member of Nu Rho Psi, found the talk to be highly informative and a great reminder that sleep is an important part of staying healthy. She agreed that it was a societal trend to devalue sleep. 

“You’d be like, ‘I’m so tired today,’ and your friend would be like, ‘I only got four hours,’” Sage Otterson said. “It feels like a competition.”

Freshman Clark Otterson agreed with Patil. He attributed the devaluation of sleep to the competitive academic environment on campus. 

“Sleep is secondary,” Clark Otterson said. “The less you sleep, the more work you can potentially get done.”

Patil’s talk encouraged Clark Otterson to consciously consider the amount of sleep he got on a daily basis. He found that he rarely thought about his sleep habits, as it was something he seldom gave attention to. 

Kylie Patterson was inspired to attend Patil’s talk by her lack of sleep the night before. Patterson works as the senior advisor for Local Economic Inclusion. Patil’s talk strongly resonated with her.

In his speech, Patil stated that on average, one in five students pull an all-nighter at least once a month. Additionally, at least once a week, one in three college students stay up until 3 a.m.

“I vividly remember doing that,” Patterson said. “It really impacted my health.”

Patterson was glad to see statistics that resonated strongly with her undergraduate and graduate experience. She felt that despite having finished her college career, she still struggles to prioritize her sleep. 

Julia Greenspan, the health education specialist at CHEW, found Patil’s information extremely relevant to students. According to Greenspan, data gathered from the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) made it evident that most students struggled with their sleep habits. The relevance of sleep deprivation at Hopkins inspired Greenspan to reach out to Patil.

Through inviting Patil to speak on campus, Greenspan stated that CHEW hopes to break down the stigmas surrounding mental health. She said that CHEW focuses on talking about mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, as well as other issues that most students at Hopkins face, such as sleep deprivation.

“The most important thing is that we are starting to have conversations around [mental health],” Greenspan said. 

By inviting Patil to speak, Greenspan wanted to provide students with the building blocks necessary to improve their sleep habits. She felt that students on campus often have too much on their plate to fit sleep into their busy schedules.

Greenspan hopes CHEW will be able to provide resources and address issues, like sleep deprivation, that affect students on campus.

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