There are two things you have to do, even if you’re a busy college student. You must eat and you must sleep. These two things are not optional. They are mandatory to your survival.
Despite this, I hear about many student journalists who don’t take the time to eat during the day or sleep properly at night.
If you get nothing else from this post, read this: Failing to eat and sleep properly will turn you into a toddler. You will be irritable, frustrated, teary, and you’re likely to end up sick.
Sleep helps your brain work properly, improving its ability to perform and learn, and minimizing mistakes and accidents, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Sleep also is important to your physical health, strengthening your immune system and decreasing the likelihood that you will develop health issues like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, according to the institute.
While everyone seems to understand that sleep is necessary, I frequently hear students talking about not sleeping much or at all. Young adults (ages 18-25) should sleep seven to nine hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Despite this recommendation, college students are one of the most sleep-deprived populations with about 71 percent of students reporting insufficient sleep, according to a National Health Institute study.
This lack of sleep is affecting students negatively. Students rank sleep just behind stress in factors that negatively impact their academic performance, according to the health institute’s study.
So why aren’t students sleeping? The most common problem, it seems, is that students go to bed late and wake up early. This suggests that simple changes in sleep routines could dramatically impact students’ lives. Other factors that challenge students’ sleep include:
- Exposure to technology before sleep,
- Drinking caffeine or alcohol late in the day,
- Socializing late at night, and
- A lack of a routine sleep schedule.
I’ll admit it. I fall asleep reading on my phone just about every night, so I know you won’t adjust all of these factors. But if you could change just a few of them or adhere to good sleep habits more nights than not, it would make a big difference in how you feel.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into the newsroom to find a crabby, stressed editor-in-chief who claims not to have eaten all day, and I’m not talking about the same individual.
Healthy eating doesn’t seem to be the top concern of the student journalists I advise because they skip meals altogether.
Skipping meals makes your blood sugar plunge, which results in low energy, an inability to focus and mood swings. It also can cause you to get sick by compromising your immune system.
These are exactly the opposite traits of a good student journalist. Student journalists need to have high energy and focus. They also need to be emotionally level and healthy.
The way to avoid these problems is simple—eat. No one expects you not to take 30 minutes or so from your day to eat. However, if you really feel like you can’t take the time to leave the newsroom to get a meal, just plan ahead and bring something with you. While eating at your desk may not be the best habit, it’s certainly better than not eating at all.
I know you’re busy. As a student journalist, I’d even be willing to bet that you’re busier than most college students, but eating and sleep aren’t optional. If you won’t do it for yourself, please do these things for everyone else’s sake. None of us want to work with a cranky toddler.