Some students have trouble staying awake during classes.
This phenomenon may be caused by a variety of factors. Students may find more difficulties in large lecture-based classes.
Sleeping in class may be caused by the student’s lack of restorative sleep the night before or the content of the lecture itself, or it could be the sign of a larger issue at hand regarding the student’s health. The consequences are the same no matter the reason, however: The professor has to deal with one or several students in his or her classroom who are missing information, and the student has spent money on a class he or she sleeps through.
For senior communication major Andre Parker, the cause of his falling asleep during class is his lack of sleep the night before.
“While it hasn’t been as much of an issue for me, I do find that sometimes when classes drone on or I’ve had a particularly hard time sleeping the night before, or I stayed up too late playing games, it has happened,” Parker said.
Parker hasn’t experienced any negative side effects of sleeping during class with regard to his grade but said his geology lecture class was a “killer” for him. In addition, Parker said he sometimes had trouble staying awake during his theatre and introduction to mass communications classes.
Freshman theater major Drew Breitenbach would fall asleep last semester during his calculus II class.
“It was mostly because I knew all the topics already, [having] taken the class in high school, but also because the professor had an extremely relaxing voice,” Breitenbach said. “I also don’t have a very good sleep schedule, so I tend to be rather tired during my early-morning classes.”
A three-credit hour course costs $1,185 for in-state students. Both Parker and Breitenbach spent $28.21 on an hour-long nap every week for 14 weeks, adding up to a total of $394.94 for the entire semester.
Professor Christopher Bailey experiences students falling asleep during his introduction to theatre and voice for the actor classes. He said these classes were typically made up of 30 or more students and always met on Tuesdays and Thursdays and began at 9:35 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. Bailey said he knows, for some students, sleeping in class occurs because they have to be awake at 3:30 a.m. to work the opening shift of a restaurant.
That has nothing to do with their academic life, but Bailey also said, “In other cases, I believe students simply cannot find the focus required for a college career, and I sometimes believe those students ought to consider whether college is an appropriate choice for them. In all cases, I find it distracting and disrespectful to me and our purpose.”
Sleeping in class or at otherwise inappropriate times can indicate a larger issue. Professor Till Roenneberg of the Institute of Medical Psychology theorizes “social jet lag” may be this bigger-picture problem. Social jet lag occurs when a people’s bodies tell them it is one time but their clocks tell them it is a different time. For example, a man’s clock reads 1:32 a.m., but he is in a country that is 12 hours ahead of his home. His watch, and therefore his cerebral mind, says, “It’s time for bed.” His body answers, “It’s too early for bed.”
This battle between the body and the obligations (social or otherwise) tears apart the brain’s ability to cognate, meaning that when a student falls asleep during class, there’s a good chance the student is also not performing well in the class.
Sleep is strongly correlated to all of the body’s functions, though, so if students are skipping sleep, they also run the risk of developing heart problems, memory loss and weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation suggests 18-26-year-olds sleep for seven to nine hours every night.