SSS or SOS: How Students Balance Their Sleep, Studies and Social Life

How to sail the stormy seas of the Bermuda triangle of college life.

Many NYU students struggle with getting the right balance of sleep, study, and social life. (Photo by Jake Quan)

Bobst has been your home for the past six hours. The only human interaction you’ve had is when the girl across from you asked you to watch her stuff and when the Postmates delivery guy handed you your burrito. You’re almost ready to head home, watch an episode of “Big Mouth” and go to sleep. You get a message from your latest Tinder match — he’s definitely the one — “Hey, it’s Jason. Let’s get weird tonight.” You want to get weird tonight. (Later, he will ghost you, but you don’t know that yet.) Jason meets you in front of Third North and the two of you share a Four Loko on the Hudson River.

Oh, and your calculus final is tomorrow — well, technically it’s today.

The tricky trifecta: sleep, studying and a social life. You can only choose two, as the saying goes. Many students operate under the assumption that they can catch up on sleep over the weekend, over the break or when they are dead.

“Usually, I do studies and social life, and sleep kind of has to just figure itself out,” Steinhardt sophomore Theo Luterman said. “I’ll catch up later.”

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According to Lori Evans, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU, all three are equally important in order for students to have a truly fulfilling college experience.

“It’s the idea of finding the balance,” Evans said.

Skimping on sleep is a no-go if you strive for optimal productivity. If you feel like a zombie, chances are your cognitive and social performance will go speedily downhill.

“When you’re exhausted all the time, then kind of what’s the point of the other two?” Luterman said. “You won’t do as well in either of them.”

Social interactions are a crucial component in the lives of many students, but is it really worth it to go out on a Tuesday night when you have a presentation on Wednesday morning? Being mindful of what your body needs — think balanced meals and sleep versus beer and dollar pizza — is important, but thinking creatively can also help you hack the system.

Gallatin sophomore Rachel Maurer has put the following equation to use: friends equal homework buddies, dinner dates equal study breaks. By virtue of sticking to this formula, she doesn’t need to sacrifice sleep for the sake of doing well in school, maintaining a social life and having fun every now and then.

“I try to limit myself to going out only two or three times a week and only go out Thursday, Friday or Saturday night,” Maurer said. “It’s a good way to maintain a social and academic balance.”

That being said, college is supposedly the best time to have fun and enjoy your life. Looking back on his years at NYU, CAS senior Han Lu encourages all first-year students to embrace their liberty to do whatever their heart desires.

“Go out more and study and sleep less, because you’re not going to get the chance to do that for the next few years,” Lu said. “And use that fake ID!”

However, even a little bit of planning can go a long way, and it’s important to find time to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Creating a simple wellness routine in college is the first step toward leading a healthy and sensible life as an adult.

“Aside from the balance of studying and social life, you need sleep, you need good nutrition and you need to exercise,” Evans said. “Even taking it forward to the work life, a work-life balance includes those three as well.”

Email Valerie Stepanova at [email protected]

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