Sleepy Eyes and Stressful Times: The Importance of Managing Sleep and Stress

Nicole Letendre ’23

Features Editor

Maintaining sleep schedules and managing stress, HC SHAPE topics of the month, are unarguably prevalent in the lives of college students, especially surrounding both finals studying and test weeks. As college students learning through a global pandemic, we are constantly faced with stressful circumstances, in which we must balance being productive with being conscious of our wellbeing. According to the National Institute of Mental Health website, “Stress is how the brain and body respond to any demand. Any type of challenge—such as performance at work or school, a significant life change, or a traumatic event—can be stressful.” It is likely that many Holy Cross students would be able to check off some of these criteria. Working around these stressful times requires an awareness of your own wellbeing, and a willingness to put it as a priority. I had the opportunity to ask Martha Sullivan, FNP-BC, Associate Director of Health Services, some crucial questions about how to balance your work/school commitments, with living a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle.  

As finals are approaching, what are some of the medical benefits of keeping healthy sleep schedules, as well as the consequences when they are not met?

Benefits of sleep: adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel fully awake during the day.

1. Sleep makes you feel more energized and alert.

2. Sleep improves memory so the information stored for exams will be readily available.

3. Sleep improves immune function, which I am sure would be a benefit in flu season and during the COVID pandemic.

Lack of sleep results in: 

 Daytime sleepiness, irritability, decreased concentration, attention deficits, reduced vigilance, distractibility, poor motivation, fatigue, lack of energy, restlessness. Lack of sleep can lead to accidents, health problems because your immune system may not be able to fight infections, increased stress because you have stopped doing what you enjoy due to lack of sleep.

From “Up to Date” 2020. subscription medical information

Graphic by Valentina Moran ‘23.

How can students manage stress levels, while still feeling productive and motivated to study and work?

Students can manage stress levels by putting yourself first.  Put the time into your calendar to go to bed at a reasonable time in order to get enough sleep, make the time for three healthy meals and two healthy snacks and schedule in a daily exercise (aerobic, weights, yoga, stretching, meditation) for 30-60 minutes at the most, do not over exercise. Hydrate well and keep away from alcohol and other drugs.

Once you take care of yourself, schedule in the time to get your studying and writing done.  You will have more energy and motivation to learn when you take care of yourself first.  Remember that there are resources on campus such as academic support services and the counseling center that can support you in reaching your goals and assist you in managing stress. If you are not feeling physically well, schedule a telehealth appointment with Health Services!

Thank you Ms. Sullivan, FNP-BC, for taking the time to give us some great information regarding the importance of sleep, and managing stress. Remember to prioritize self-care during these unpredictable times, especially as we approach the grind of finals week. Resources such as Health Services and the Counseling Center are always available to Holy Cross students, should anyone need some extra support during these times, so never hesitate to reach out! In addition, you can follow HC SHAPE (Student Health Awareness Peer Educators) on Instagram for some helpful tips and information about all things health and wellness. HC SHAPE Instagram: @holycrossshape

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