Max Greenfield, Georgia State women’s studies major, said his brain has “no chill.” He has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which has made him live on little sleep since he was a child. His typical day begins at 6 a.m.
“It takes about four hours before I can actually sleep,” he said, “Then something pops into my head, and I’m up another four hours.”
ASD is a group of developmental disabilities that cause social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Eighty percent of autistic children also have sleeping problems, according to Autism Speaks.
In a 2014 report by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, 50 percent of college students reported daytime sleepiness, and 70 percent said they don’t sleep enough. These factors can cause academic failure, impaired mood and increased risk of car accidents.
Lack of sleep also inhibits a person’s immune system by making them be unable to properly fight off infection, according to the University of Georgia Health Center.
Greenfield said last week he felt so ill he passed out at home. He slept only about two hours a night for two weeks during that time. He said ASD comes with sensory issues, and he tends to lose his train of thought.
“I’d been sick for an unusual amount of time. If I’m stuffy, coughing abnormally, or having muscle pain, it [ASD] makes me like, really want to crawl out of my skin,” he said.
Georgia State Associate Director of Counseling and Testing Center (CTC) Jeana Griffith said sleep deprivation causes afflictions, such as weight change, bodily pain, social issues, stress and anxiety.
“Sometimes, a student may have sleeping issues due to stress over an impending test, or it may be some type of medical issue,” she said.
She also said she can tell when a student doesn’t get enough sleep as soon as they walk in her office. The signs include sluggishness, inattentiveness and lack of concentration.
“They enter [the office] slowly, they’re sluggish, and their eyelids droop.There’s a lack of attention and they’re slow to process information, like when I ask them a question,” she said.
No rest for the weary
Some college students are sleep deprived because of extended socializing, hectic work schedules, and basic procrastination, according to a study on sleep deprivation in college students.
Georgia State student Grant Walter said his schedule includes physics, math and a 40-hour work week. He averages about seven to 10 hours of sleep, but his day begins after 5 a.m.
He said it’s hard to get up in the morning for classes.
“I get up around 5:30 am, and ride MARTA,” he said. “I work till 11, go to school, then back to work. I work until 4:30, come back to school, and leave school at 6:45, at the latest.”
Walter said he is “pretty prolific” with his coffee consumption, averaging at least four cups a day, his consumption raises to six or seven during exam time.
“I feel a lot of weight [importance] to stay awake, especially since I spend an hour commuting back and forth, I have to make the trip worth it,” he said.
Griffith advises her patients to change their sleeping habits. They are also offered relaxation techniques and tips to help them sleep better.
“We advise them to go to sleep at an earlier time, or drink warm milk, do deep breathing techniques, or even pray before bed,” she said.
She also advises students against pulling “all-nighters.”
“During exam time, people skimp on sleep, and lack [thereof] affects concentration, so the student won’t do as well,” she said.
To cope with ASD, Greenfield said he started smoking at a young age, and he takes prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to help him sleep. During his interview, he smoked three cigarettes.
With doping, he said he rarely misses assignments or falls asleep in class.
“If I’m like really stressed out, I’ll do some extra homework to get ahead in class, or I’ll take two melatonin pills and just lie there until I fall asleep,” he said.
Griffith said students shouldn’t be behind the wheel while sleep deprived, and advises against drinking caffeinated or energy drinks.
“If you’re sleepy, take a cab or have a friend drive you. Energy drinks will provide a temporary alertness, and then you start to crash,” she said.