Wellness Initiative Sets Its Sights on Student Sleep

Kate Preziosi

Since March 31, the Wellness Initiative has been hosting a series of contests and events to promote healthier sleeping habits among Colgate’s student body. Sleep deprivation is one of the issues that were identified by a health consultant after his recent trip to campus. In his discussions with students, he concluded that alcohol, rape and stress were the main topics on which the Wellness Initiative should focus.

This spring, the Social Norming Committee in connection with the Wellness Initiative Steering Committee began discussing what they could do to give students more information to help themselves. Both groups, which are comprised of students and faculty members, sought to present information about sleep in a creative way that would draw attention.

Coordinator of Alcohol and Drug Education and member of the Wellness Initiative Steering Committee Jane Jones came up with the idea of a “cot contest,” in which students could submit pictures of themselves on a bed that had been placed in various locations around campus. Submissions were entered into a pool for a $200 cash prize.

“[The cot contest] was just great and the students loved it,” Jones said. “The girls swim team certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. I think the librarians were getting a kick out of the fact that students were coming in and getting their pictures taken.”

Each day the cot featured a different fact about healthy sleeping habits. Among the information distributed were details about the difference between napping and hitting the snooze button. Studies show that twenty minutes of sleep during the day provides more rest than twenty extra minutes in the morning. There were also facts about what happens to the body in the absence of sleep. If a person has not slept for up to twenty-four hours, his or her body functions at the equivalent of a .08 blood-alcohol level.

“Accurate information was most important,” Jones said. “We were trying to get our message across in a lighthearted way. The committee is exceptionally good at brainstorming and being creative. We like throwing out ideas and then starting to sort them out. Sometimes my ideas suck, but that’s okay – I’m a grown-up and I can deal with that.”

On Monday, the Wellness Initiative also sponsored an event called “Come to Bed,” which was meant to compile all the information they had been advertising into one night of sleep stations, crafts, story time and a cappella.

“The sleep stations were all in large tents,” said Jones. “We selected four of those sleep machine noises and developed a set for each. There was an ocean wave theme, complete with palm trees and inflatable air rafts with an oscillating fan. The Dischords just loved that tent! I don’t think anyone else got in there the entire night. There were also sets for cricket noises, rainfall and sounds of the rainforest.”

Colgate students who recently completed the American College Health Association survey are continuing to help the Wellness Initiative identify what kinds of areas students would benefit from knowing more about.

“Right now, we’re hunkering down for the end of the semester and we’ll be working on the information from the survey to look at areas where we could be doing more,” Jones said. “Our purpose is to try to come up with different ways to get people to think about their health, but never to tell them what to do.”