I remember how weird I felt for sleeping when I was younger.
Now wait, just here me out on this.
I remember sometimes feeling odd or strange if I got a full night's sleep when I was in high school because that usually meant that I wasn't doing something right. When I was growing up, lack of sleep was admired and even made popular by many of my friends who would proudly boast about being a part of #TeamNoSleep while on Twitter during the early morning hours. It seemed like I, the lonely seven-to-eight-hour sleeper, was missing out on a whole different world of fun, one where apparently people stay up all hours of the night doing whatever it is that they couldn't get done during the day.
And as my academic career progressed, not sleeping just became the thing that you did if you were one of those kids who had "so much going on," both with school and with your social life.
Being considered "busy" when I was in school meant that you shouldn't have had time to sleep a full eight hours each night. I remember beginning to question myself because I was never a part of #TeamNoSleep, which led me to think that I wasn't living my life to the fullest. If I was constantly engaged in activities, keeping up with all of my classes, and still going out with my friends, I shouldn't have had enough time to sleep...right?
Well, that mindset was definitely wrong. But I didn't realize just how wrong I was until my junior year at university when I was sick for the third time that semester due to lack of sleep and overall exhaustion.
It was in college that I came to the final realization that I would never be a member of #TeamNoSleep, simply due to the fact that I get viciously sick when I don't get enough Z's throughout my week. When you factor in not sleeping enough and then add the stress of 15-credit-hour semesters, a new internship, and some semblance of a social life, you can begin to see why my body was wearing out. It took me three years of going through the motions of fevers, coughing, sneezing, and body aches for me to finally realize that I needed to slow down.
For me, it always seems like you need to be doing more when you're in college. You're only taking four classes? You should really be taking five, minimum. You're taking five classes, but you don't have an internship? You should probably get one soon, you know you have to apply early. You're taking five classes and you have an internship, but you don't go out on the weekends? You should really be having some fun, you're only in college once.
No matter what the circumstances, college students are constantly pushed to exceed all expectations and to do it effortlessly. If you don't have a full plate in college, you're not doing it right.
This skewed mindset has led many students to believe that they must overload themselves with work and responsibilities in order to be successful. And unfortunately, this can sometimes have drastic consequences, such as withdrawals from school, frequent health problems, or even suicides.
I personally had my first health scare just last semester when I was so out-of-my-mind stressed and sick that I fainted right in the middle of one of my classes. While fainting is not as drastic as some things, it definitely triggered something in my brain that told me that what I was doing to myself wasn't healthy. And ever since that incident, I've been the biggest advocate for rest and relaxation. There is nothing you can do better for your body than to let it decompress and recover. Constantly pushing and working and trying to get everything done in one day will do nothing but leave you exhausted and sick at the end of it all. This is something that I unfortunately didn't fully understand until I woke up on the ground with a classroom full of students staring at me asking, "What happened? Is she breathing?"
There is a dire need for college students all around the world to wake up (well, actually go to sleep!) and understand that whatever you didn't get done today can wait until tomorrow. Pulling "all-nighters" in an effort to study or complete assignments is not going to produce your best work, nor is it going to bode well for your body when you have to wake up at 9 a.m. the next day. We as a generation need to slow down and understand that we are successful and hardworking individuals, but that we just might need an extra hour of sleep in order for us to be our best selves in the morning.
Homework can wait, but sleep cannot. Our health is important and so are our minds, but they both can't work together unless we allow them to.
So take a breather and get some sleep, my fellow Millennials. There is always tomorrow.