Personal Narrative: Changing The Sleep Culture At MIT

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As I sit down in the lecture hall waiting for calculus class to begin, I overhear two girls talking behind me.
“Have you finished the homework for calculus yet?”
“Not yet… I haven’t even finished the first question…”
“Ugh, me either. Guess I’ll be breaking out the 5-Hour Energy tonight.”
“Yeah, I need an A in this class. We’ll be fine, sleep is for the weak.”
At MIT, conversations like this are commonplace. I find it astounding that at one of the finest institutions of higher education in the world, home to some of the most brilliant students I have ever encountered, sleep is regarded as optional. We are a school of science and technology. Here, facts and logic reign supreme. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence pointing toward the necessity of healthy sleep, students are hitting the sack for far less time than is considered healthy for a typical 18-22 year old.
As a student attending a technological institute,
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Last year, I joined a working group with MIT’s MindHandHeart initiative focused on wellness. The working group is comprised of 15 MIT staff members and me working together to dramatically shift the sleep culture of MIT. This year, I stepped into the role of Undergraduate Co-Chair of the working group. In the fall, we published a 23-page document outlining the barriers keeping MIT students from experiencing a lifestyle of healthy sleep, as well as recommendations for faculty, staff, and peers to help encourage and empower students to prioritize healthy sleep habits. We are currently planning a Sleep Initiative to be launched in the spring of 2017 with the focus of raising awareness of the importance of healthy sleep. We’re planning to involve giveaways of sleep tools such as sleep masks and ear plugs to support students on their journey to healthy sleep. I believe that with technology and awareness, we can convince not only MIT, but college students around the nation, that sleep is for the
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