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College 101: Sleepless and Stressed

I love my life here on campus. I’m also very committed to succeeding in school. When I left for college, my Dad told me an old joke: “Sleep, studies, social life—pick two.” Well, that seems pretty accurate to me: I can’t sleep.

When I try to get to sleep here at school, I start to stress out about my academics or feel antsy about not being out with my friends. I’m tired in the morning, even though I’m never tired at night. And I think my grades are suffering. Is it possible that I have a sleep disorder?

Yes, it’s absolutely possible that you have a sleep disorder. After all, sleep disorders are very common: 40 million Americans suffer from one. Practitioners at JFK Medical Center’s New Jersey sleep disorder assessment and treatment center say that sleep disorders can take a wide variety of forms, and that some could indeed produce the symptoms that you’re describing. But unless you consult an expert and get advice that’s tailored to you (in person—this article doesn’t count!), then you won’t know for sure!

Similarly, you won’t know without a doctor’s help if there is more going on here than a sleep disorder. Sleep issues aren’t always independent from other health issues, note physicians at Hillsboro, Oregon’s Neighborhood Health Center—in fact, they frequently aren’t! All sorts of things can mess with your sleep schedule, including physical health issues and mental health issues like stress. So if you’re under a lot of stress--such as stress related to your studies and drive to succeed--you may quite literally end up losing sleep over it. Sound familiar?

It’s very possible that your sleep issue is related to a larger stress or anxiety issue you’re dealing with. Stress is an epidemic on college campuses, where more than half of all students struggle with anxiety issues and a third are depressed.

Of course, that’s just one possible diagnosis, and it’s not one that you should accept without heading straight for your own doctor (or to on-campus resources) for more information. Your primary care physician will tell you what to do next and will refer you, if need be, to a sleep specialist or a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist.

So don’t wait, and don’t rely on our observations or your own ideas. Seek out the right expert—your doctor—in person, and get the help that you need. Famous jokes aside, it should be possible for you to enjoy school, do well, and sleep soundly, so fight for the college experience you want by putting the right experts in your corner.

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” --Homer

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