Addicted to Sleep: Risks Students Take for Z’s

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By Alex Rush > Senior > Journalism > University of Maryland

Impending paper due date, job applications and drama. What doesn’t keep us up at night? While some college students are catching Z’s when they can, some are turning to another solution to getting a full night’s sleep—sleeping pills.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates 50 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. However, many students are using sleep aids without a diagnosis. “Obsessing about exams and drama in college plays a very big part in keeping students awake…then some feel as if they need to take a pill to calm them down and self-medicate,” says Dr. Harris Stratyner, Caron Treatment Center vice president.

According to a study by Thomson Reuters, a health information resource, sleep aid users younger than 25 nearly tripled between 1998 and 2006.  “The rise in sleeping pill use really speaks to the fact that we’ve become a quick-fix society,” says Amy Henning, associate director of counseling at Drexel University.
Sleeping   pills may provide short-term solutions, but they aren’t a cure. Products come with side effects including drowsiness and confusion. Prescription sleeping pills may cause more extreme effects like aggressiveness, hallucinations and fatal tongue swelling.

Using sleeping prescriptions to get through just the occasional night can become a health hazard. “It’s scary just to take a pill because you can’t predict what the side effects may be and it may hide a bigger problem at hand,” says Henning. Difficulty sleeping may be part of a more complex mental or physical health issue that sleep aids mask.

Instead of using sleeping pills, Stratyner recommends students get on tight study and sleep schedules to overcome “poor sleep hygiene” resulting from habits like caffeine and alcohol consumption. “I’m a realist, I know students want to have fun and experience life, but students need to try to set more consistent times to study and to sleep,” he said.

photo from

College Magazine Staff

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