Why I can’t fall asleep before midnight

Studies suggest early classes don't mix well with sleep patterns of young adults

Jordan Zy

Look, I can’t be the only one who struggles to fall asleep before midnight. If you're like me, then maybe you've noticed how tired you can get throughout the school week. You look forward to Sabbath because of its promise as the day of rest.

Maybe it's not our fault. With more studies on sleeping patterns, it's time to consider a new kind of schedule.

Millions of college students are staying up late every night and getting up early for classes. And, try hard as we might, studies are showing that our inner, biological clocks are designed for us to stay up late. It doesn't help that our classes start before the hours hit the double digits. For generations, work, school and classes have begun as early as 7 or 8 a.m. This schedule reflects the natural sleep/wake biological clocks of older generations who usually run schools and businesses.

Does anyone remember how rough first period Algebra 2 was at 7:30 a.m. in high school? It's because your brain was basically drowsy. The National Sleep Foundation sources many studies showing that once you enter your teenage years, your genetically determined biological clock tends towards staying up later and sleeping in. The Foundation urged high schools to consider setting their starting bells at 8:30 a.m. instead of something like 7 a.m. This is because, for the teen, the brain seemed to be most alert while functioning best at 9 a.m.  

The Washington Post reported on a 2007 study conducted by psychologists at St. Lawrence University showed that later classes for college students were actually counterproductive. Grades for students whose first classes began after 9 a.m. were lower than for students whose first classes began before 9 a.m. The study suggested the late class schedule allowed the students to be more open to drinking on a weekday when they knew they could sleep in. Even though Union College is a dry campus, I'd still encourage my peers with late schedules to not be as rachet as St. Lawrence students were in 2007. If given the opportunity to sleep in before classes, I'd be disappointed to hear my friends wasted it on weekday hangover recoveries.

How does the sleep cycle apply to us at Union College? I would suggest that when we enter college and begin our independence we need to watch out for ourselves more. Whether or not we get late or early schedules each semester, we are responsible for how we cope with it. Perhaps while we try to do better by our health, Union might consider early classes to be exercise focused. It's not always possible to get your first class of the day to be at 9:30 a.m., but then again that 7:30 a.m. swimming class be more beneficial than sleeping in until the start of a 9 a.m. West and the World class. And for those of you with a first class at noon, embrace your opportunity so you won't get stuck in a place where you have to take Kyle Berg's article on caffeine alternatives seriously.

Jordan is a senior studying psychology.