On a three month average, 214 people walk through the doors of the Stony Brook University Sleep Disorders Center each month. Of those 214 people, many are college students, said Theresa Haegele, a secretary at the center.
According to the center and copious amounts of research, sleep disorders plague college campuses.
Young adults moving into dormitory buildings, are granted the freedom to do whatever it is that they please, can drink alcohol under no supervision, are influenced by their peers, forget that time management skills exist and some even take surveys about going to sleep at 3 a.m.
An unscientific survey of 55 college students conducted through a survey by The Statesman in March and distributed using Facebook showed that there is much potential for the existence of both diagnosed and undiagnosed sleep disorders in college-aged individuals. Fifty percent of survey-takers said that they think they might have a sleep disorder, but have never been seen by a doctor. Four of the 55 said that they have been diagnosed with sleep disorders.
David Morrissey, a senior at Stony Brook, said that he has suspected that he has had a sleep disorder for eight years now. He has yet to see a doctor about the problem.
“My parents and pediatrician thought I was paranoid, but recently I’ve actually just been lazy about it,” Morrisey said. “I guess it’s not as bad to the point where it’s unbearable.”
According to Sleep Disorders Center Doctors Avram Gold and Rina Awan, it is far from unusual to have college students come into the center for an exam. Awan said that most come in at the insistence of their boyfriends or girlfriends, who tell the individuals that their breathing and snoring patterns during sleep are irregular.
“Most of the time, it is somebody else telling them, and they’re not that aware of their need for sleep evaluation,” Awan said.
Gold said that while many believe that sleep disorders are the result of psychological turmoil, he does not believe this to be entirely true.
“What has come out over the years is that there are far more medical problems with sleep than there are psychological problems with sleep,” said Gold.
According to Chris O’Connor, 24, who graduated from Stony Brook with a degree in biology and is now learning how to work in the field through experience at the center, the atmosphere of a typical college campus is not conducive to healthy sleep habits.
“College gives you probably really bad sleep hygiene,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said that he has learned that drinking alcohol is one cause of college sleep problems in general.
“Insomnia is a very common complaint,” Gold said. “The two biggies are insomnia and fatigue and they usually go together.”
Gold, however, does not mention the effects of alcohol. He cites breathing problems as the core instigators of further unrest.
“In most of these people, there’s some element of a breathing problem, that is responsible for the insomnia and the fatigue,” Gold said.
The sleep center usually solves problems with breathing apparatuses or orthodontics. The center also provides information to students about ways to sleep better, advocating methods other than medication.
A list of “17 Helpful Sleep Tips” from SleepBetter.org, which the sleep center provided, recommends several solutions that many college students have difficulty employing.
“Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, which suppress deep sleep, within three to six hours of bedtime,” the article advises. And then, of course, there’s time management.
The prevalence of sleep disorders on college campuses is a problem that can be mitigated by visiting the sleep center for overnight tests or by self-awareness. And by not taking sleep surveys at 3 a.m.