The Center for College Sleep at the University of St. Thomas aims to combine academic research and programming know-how to promote sleep research and improve sleep practices, reports the Minn Post.

In response to what they see as a sleep crisis among young people, this year J. Roxanne Prichard and Birdie Cunningham launched the Center for College Sleep, a first-of-its kind center that combines academic research and programming know-how to promote sleep research and the creation of interactive programs designed to evaluate and improve sleep practices in college and university settings. Cunningham is the center’s director of operations and programming, and Prichard is scientific director.

As one of its first projects, the Center for College Sleep created an interactive “environmental scan” that helps help college administrators check to see if their institution is fostering a healthy sleep environment.

“The scan asks at least 80 questions that a college administrator can answer,” Prichard said. “It helps them take a careful look at the messaging they are giving about sleep.” The scan helps administrators — who also come with their own biases about the importance of sleep — learn to look at getting a good night’s rest from a different perspective. This can also be a revelation for students: “We think that a lot of times students might be coming into campus health centers with symptoms of depression and anxiety and these symptoms may actually be sleep deprivation manifesting itself,” Prichard said. “If they get enough sleep they may realize that they might not need an antidepressant.”

Prichard and Cunningham’s research has already helped to increase awareness on campus about the importance of not skimping on sleep.

“We’ve been sponsoring programming and different conversations around campus,” Cunningham said. An annual student health survey discovered that one of students’ biggest stressors was sleep, and that finding helped inspire administrators to fund their center.

Photo Credit: St. Thomas

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