03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Young and the Sleepless

It's only 2 p.m. in the afternoon, but I could seriously use a nap.

Even as I write this, I'm stifling back a yawn, holding a mug of coffee, and indulging in thoughts of my warm bed waiting not too far away.

I really shouldn't be this tired. Having yet to graduate college, I don't have a full time career or a family yet to worry about. But despite this, I have gradually cut my sleeping hours over the years and I know I'm not the only one.

My own continuous state of fatigue along with HuffPost's Sleep Challenge 2010 with Ariana Huffington and Glamour's editor-in-chief Cindi Leive has inspired me to take a look at my own cohort of 20-something college women, and whether we're avoiding the sleep deprivation trap of our older, much busier counterparts.

The truth? We're just as tired.

Despite most of us being husbandless and childless with still fledging careers, it seems that single moms and working women are not the only ones guilty of skimping on sleep.

Amongst my own friends? 6 hours. 5 hours. For one of my friends, a shocking 4 hours a night.

Indeed, though our age suggests that we're supposed to be in the prime of our vitality and free thus far from the many other stresses of life, young "fresh-faced" college women are now hurriedly filling their purses with under-eye concealer, sneaking yawns, sipping coffee throughout the day, and operating on a perpetual state of tiredness.

What's the deal? Why are we so sleepless that by the time we pick up our diplomas on graduation day, we're well primed to join the ranks of the nation's tired working women right from the get-go?

Ariana and Cindi have called the lack of a sleep a feminist issue, attributed to women working harder and longer to compensate for feelings of not belonging to a boys-club atmosphere that dominates the workplace.

Though women populate college campuses in record numbers, with some even outnumbering men at certain colleges, the same mentality may haunt us as students well before we reach the workplace -- especially for those women majoring in traditionally male-dominated fields like engineering and the sciences. Staying up late to perfect work or to go the extra mile in an assignment may be fueled by desires to be viewed as competent, and to be taken just as seriously in classes surrounded by male students.

Even still no matter the academic program, I've seen through my four years at college a gradual and subtle conditioning of women that almost encourages less sleep in the name of being more productive and getting ahead.

I can't count the number of times I've seen my friends run into class minutes before the deadline brandishing their just-completed essays and declaring that they hadn't slept all night. Or in some instances, watching conversations between students trying to one-up the other in how few hours of sleep they're getting as a badge of honor and a sign of how hard they're working, despite the health consequences. One night of skimped sleep turns into another, until it becomes a habit as we transition into the workplace.

In a way, we can't be blamed, especially during these precarious economic times that see record unemployment for those under 30. Whether it is staying up to finish that 10-page essay, priming for a highly competitive internship, a spot at a prestigious grad school or maintaining a vibrant social life in the aim of 'having it all' (something working moms know well), getting 8 hours of sleep just might not be cutting it anymore in the college version of the rat race, and never ceases as we graduate.

On top of that, watching our own stressed and sleepless working mothers attempting to achieve so-called-balance may have influenced us as well. Growing up watching our mothers come home from work spent and exhausted, and then gearing up for the 'second shift' in cooking dinner and taking care of the household may have conditioned us into think long and harried schedules for women that run late into the night is the norm.

Sleep is not generally seen as "something to work on", not like other typical health-based resolutions like eating well or exercising. Though we all claim we need more sleep, there's never really a concerted effort to achieve it -- the mentality is that we will either have the time or not to sleep, depending on our never-ending to do lists and schedules.

This needs to change. Like the Sleep Challenge 2010, we need to make sleep just as much as a priority for young women as the grades, internships and applications, and actively focus on inching our way to the recommended 7.5-8 hours a night.

With the prospect that our hectic lives are only going to become busier and complicated with the acquirement of husbands, mortgages and children in the future, there's never been a better moment to reach for the pajamas, and get some good ol' fashioned sleep.