Between homework, classes, work and socializing, finding time to get adequate sleep and exercise can often prove difficult for students. A survey of 60 PLNU students conducted by The Point found that 73 percent of students do not get enough sleep or exercise.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
According to Brittany Johnson, PLNU assistant professor in the sociology, social work and family sciences department, one of the often overlooked drawbacks of a lack of sleep is a poorer diet. Because they’re up longer, people need to eat more, and the odd hours can deregulate your appetite hormones and leave them craving higher sugar and fatty foods.
Avoiding exercise can also cause students to miss out on a variety of benefits, like a decrease in anxiety and depression as well as an increase in the chances of some types of cancer, according to Johnson, who teaches nutrition and dietetics courses.
“You really need to be up and moving every hour, even if it’s just short walks or doing a couple jumping jacks. Even just one hour of exercise a week decreases all types of mortality,” said Johnson, who is currently getting her Ph.D. in health and human performance. “Just move. We’re really so sedentary, and college students are sitting in class. The sugars and the fats end up getting stored more because you’re sitting and less active.”
For some students, like freshman education major Denise Haight, the lack of sleep and exercise stems from not being able to fit them into an already busy schedule.
“I’m not eating normally or healthy at all really. Whatever is quick and fast, I’ll eat. I’m more than tired. I’m exhausted. And I find myself lagging behind on my school work because I’m so tired and unmotivated. Staying up so late working and having to balance exercise and a social life has just been really hard,” said Haight, who works on campus and will have a shift until 1 A.M. before having to wake up for an early morning class.
While finding time for exercise can prove difficult, Johnson recommends carving out designated time, even 10 minutes a day, for working out, as well as finding what type of exercise you enjoy to make an easier commitment. For those without gym access, YouTube offers a lot of videos to begin with the basics.
“I think you end up feeling better as a person when you’re more active. You’re feeling more comfortable in your own skin, which has a whole other benefit. Our body image plays a big role in our mental state, self-compassion, and food choices,” Johnson said.
While adjusting your schedule in order to get enough sleep can be difficult, decreasing screen time an hour before when you’d like to sleep can help turn your brain off before bed.