Sleep deprivation is a common problem among college students that has become so serious that universities in the US have taken measures to help their students overcome it.

As a particular example, the curriculum of Ateneo de Manila University was planned taking into consideration what would constitute a healthy student-life in a Philippine setting, however its students still experience the same sleep deprivation problem. With this in mind, we would like to gather ideas on what measures or projects can be taken to help students in our community cope with this problem.

  • 17
    I don't know about the Philippines, but in the US and Europe I don't think "sleep deprivation is a common problem among college students". Unless you consider LAN parties and beer pong to be official requirements.
    – Cape Code
    Feb 29, 2016 at 14:28
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    @CapeCode sleep deprivation is a serious problem in the US. cdc.gov/features/dssleep
    – emory
    Feb 29, 2016 at 16:10
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    @emory As a whole, from the link. Therefore, the problem is not uniquely related to students.... Feb 29, 2016 at 16:48
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    @CapeCode Considering that there are studies in (seemingly) reputable journals about sleep deprivation among college students (link) I'm not sure what your thoughts on this subject contribute to this discussion if it just to say "I don't think it's a problem".
    – user9646
    Feb 29, 2016 at 19:48
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    @CapeCode As a former British college student I can say it's a definite problem. Usually it's related to coming home from a full day of college work, then having to do coursework when you get home and after having worked on coursework trying to find time to relax after all the work-related stress. By the time you've worked on your coursework and had dinner it's usually 22:00 or even midnight. Also having deadlines close to midnight means most students are working on their coursework right up to the last 10 minutes. Also I never attended any LAN parties and I don't know what beer pong is.
    – Pharap
    Mar 1, 2016 at 0:22

8 Answers 8


Sleep deprivation is a serious detriment when it comes to a person (or in the context of this questions a students) Academic, extracurricular and social life. As a university its job is to mainly offer a conducive working environment that helps students achieve their goals and develop their full potential.

With this "duty" of a university in mind, we also have to factor in the individual sensitivity of a student and as to how best we can cater or create a policy (in your case project) that best caters to the biggest amount of individuals.

http://time.com/3211964/nap-rooms-at-universities/ Time provides a look at one of the projects colleges have resorted to tackle this problem. The idea of a "nap" is also something that could be a universal answer to this whole sleep deprivation scenario because again, the school does not have control over what the student may do at most it can gives suggestions through workshops, but one thing that appeals to most if not all individuals is a nap that allows you to feel refreshed.

Taking the context of the Philippines into account (with a tropical climate) I'm assuming the best course of action would be to hold a 'nap station' in a cold maybe dimmer environment and record people's willingness to participate in said station. This can give incite to further projects and perhaps even help motivate the idea of the "need" of such stations. Hope this helps!


Unless the university is requiring students to become sleep deprived in order to complete assignments (which i'm sure it is not), then changing the course structure, reducing the number of lectures, etc, will have very little impact.

Sleep deprivation is often actually a cultural issue. Cultural in the sense that every Institute/Company/University has a culture, and new students are always brought into that culture, taught "how things are done here", and in 3 years they teach it to the next intake of students.

If the culture at your university is to work all day and play all night, or simply just work all day and all night because to be seen working is to be a good student - then you need to change that culture.

Ideally try informing the students of the dangers of sleep deprivation. Try to promote efficient learning, and a balanced lifestyle of work and rest. Try to explain that being in the library 18 hours a day, does not make you a good student. Alternatively, if you play MMORPGs all night instead of sleeping, you will fail the course, and that is your own fault.

  • 3
    I played Halo for about 30 hours per week my first two years of college. I complained about lack of sleep, but it was my own fault. In hindsight I would have done it differently. Personal productivity classes as a required first-year course would probably be of benefit to a lot of students. Mar 2, 2016 at 4:03

Often sleep deprivation or stress have their root cause in overcommiting by the student (need to graduate on time, that means taking 150% class load, ...) or, very often seen here, bad time management or inefficient studying. I.e., play all day (and party through the night) until just before midterms, (try to) cram in two days what just flew by for three months, rinse and repeat. Or study irrational hours, but do not recognize you are stuck, don't seek outside help, don't look for additional material (today there are tons of lecture notes, blogs, and discussion sites like this!), ... Results (in horrible grades, in high stress levels) are predictable.

Some suggestions that helped me are to review each class shortly afterwards, at least the same day, and jot down any doubts to resolve next time; reserve a few (more or less fixed) hours each week for resolving problems, exercises and homework; keep one day a week for other activities (go hiking, go to the movies, whatever), disconnect; never study for an exam the day before, arrange to do a last sweep two days early, leave the last day to e.g. study something else altogether, make sure you go to bed early and are rested for the exam.

If you get stuck studying (or while doing homework, or whatever), switch over to something else. Staying stuck is just a waste of time, often you just need to have your subconcicious mull it over a night or a couple of days, and the solution (or at least some alternative lines of attack) will be obvious next time you pick it up again. So it is useful to have several tasks pending (to have something worthwhile to do always).

Yes, you won't always be able to keep it up, but try to do so. Your sanity will thank you. Yes, I recommend my students to do this each term; yes, only a tiny minority heeds the advise.


From the point of view of a student, one way is to start classes later, preferably after 10am.

Another way is to limit the amount of homework given by professors to a realistic amount.

Lastly, one can spread pamphlets detailing the harms of sleep deprivation and excessive use of Internet. For undergrads the major reason for sleep deprivation is probably internet usage or late night partying.

  • 17
    If the cause of sleep deprivation is internet usage or partying, reducing homework or rescheduling classes is unlikely to have any effect: internet usage and partying expand to fill the time availabel. Feb 29, 2016 at 18:53
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    Students are at the age where the bodyclock naturally makes them most likely to go to sleep late and rise late. (source: Inner Time - books.google.co.uk/books/about/…) Feb 29, 2016 at 20:07
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    As far as the realistic amount of homework thing goes, I recall one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite professors: "If you have enough time to complain about how much homework there is, then clearly you have too much free time and need to have more homework." Mar 1, 2016 at 1:30

I'm answering this question as a student based on my experiences in a U.S. college; I can't speak to any specifics of Ateneo de Manila University.

There are 2 main reasons that I stay up late:

  1. Multiple assignments/tests due on a single day
  2. A large assignment due soon that should have been started earlier

As an individual instructor, this is what you could do to help with those two issues.

  1. Allow students 1 or 2 day extensions on assignments/projects as long as they ask a few days in advance. This allows students (who plan ahead) to spread out their workload so they are not overwhelmed

    A personal example: I had a large project, a test and a homework assignment in 3 different classes all on a Friday. On Wednesday I asked for an extension on the homework assignment and turned it in on Saturday. Overall I spent more time on both the homework and the project.

    • Announce this policy at the beginning of the semester; I would never have dared to ask a professor this if my first year English professor hadn't mentioned the possibility.
    • I have only done this twice in my approximately 2 years of college.
    • If you're worried about students taking advantage of this policy then set a limit on the amount of extensions they can make
  2. Break large projects/assignments up into multiple smaller assignments or checkpoints. Requiring students to distribute their work on a project means that the entire project will never be done at the last minute.

    A personal example: For a software design course, we had a semester-long project that involved applying concepts learned in class to build a video game. The professor split up the assignment into 12 milestones, one which had to be completed and demo'd to a TA each week.

    • If a long assignment cannot be split up then giving students 20 minutes of class time to plan out their own deadlines and ask general project questions goes a long way to accomplish the same thing.

I do understand the concern that students should be responsible for managing their own time. Most of us are still transitioning into adulthood and taking on increasing amounts of responsibilities. Don't let us off the hook for failing to plan ahead; instead encourage us to allocate our time efficiently so that we can give you our best work.


I think that encountering an all-nighter every once in a while is part of university life. The problem rests in if this happens too often.

From my experience and the experiences of my friends, it has become normal to stay up all night and sleep in the early morning. If we finish what we have to do before 10 P.M., we take this as "We have 2 more hours to do whatever we want."

Essentially, it's a bad habit. We forget that sleep deprivation causes serious health problems in the long run. Because we don't see the effects now, we don't really care. So I guess a good solution is to make people care. Find a way to make the community see lack of sleep as unhealthy as drinking soda. In the end, the change can only happen if the people themselves will want to change.

  • I like what you're getting at. It's a good concept. Can you provide a more concrete way of achieving this? Mar 15, 2016 at 12:40

I'd like to echo some of the thoughts already posted and add my own experiences and ideas into the mix.

As noted by JJ, this tends to be a cultural thing first and foremost. But it's not easy to change cultural norms, it will take time and creativity. Perhaps one of the faster ways to do it is to "short-circuit" the root behaviors in the culture that cause students to become sleep deprived. If, for example, you observe that students spend all night in the library studying, you need to analyze why they are doing that. Social pressure? Too much course work? Extremely strict exam grading? You may need to do things like institute a new policy that the library closes promptly at 7PM, and combine that with mandatory classes/seminars to teach students effective time management.

If students are becoming sleep deprived because they party too much, then you'll need to find ways to dissuade them from such behaviors. Possibly institute stricter policies on noise disturbances and unregistered guests in dorm rooms, disallow alcohol in dorms (at least those that allow students who are not old enough to drink), or provide some kind of large bonus for students who maintain a certain GPA so they may take studying and exam prep more seriously.

In some cases it may not be possible to change cultural norms. For example if students staying up late and studying too much is caused by the job market being extremely competitive (not enough jobs for all the students, so only the best/luckiest get employed) then you can't do anything about it directly. You would need to somehow provide them with more opportunities so they aren't scared about getting a job to support their families.

Ultimately you can't control their behaviors, but the more you encourage them in the right direction, the more effective it will be. From my experience, the most effective way to convince people to change their behaviors is to show them tangible proof of the good that can come from it. What works in the Philippines will likely be unique to the Philippines, so you'll need to know and understand your own culture and society to spot the core problems.

  • 2
    mandatory classes/seminars to teach students effective time management really, we have come to universities having to tell students that they need to get some sleep?
    – Cape Code
    Mar 1, 2016 at 12:05
  • Like I said, all depends on the culture. What we may take for granted in one place may be a new concept somewhere else. Anyways it's just an example, and certainly not meant to fit all situations
    – thanby
    Mar 1, 2016 at 14:33

Just my 2 cents but there is a touch of cultural responsibility here. Filipino parents who send their kids to university/college and live away generally put a lot of pressure on them to succeed. Pride in academic and athletics is important for those attending their college, so a lot of time is spent studying or practising.

However, this is also the first time for many young filipinos to be independent from their family (no maid, no mother/father to help them out), and use it cooking, cleaning, socialising (A LOT OF SOCIALISING, if you don't believe me check out the streets at night during the end of a school day). Students are torn between a mix of doing well, and enjoying their life...as they revel in new found freedoms and independence.

On the other side of the spectrum, those that struggle to pay fees in university spend their time doing other jobs just to support their degree and maintain independence. This leads to cramming and finding time to study decreases, with the only sacrifice being sleep (same thing that happens with those that want to socialise).

On top of being kind, helpful, and generous, Filipinos are also proud people, they will try not to accept handouts or help where possible if they feel the person feels sorry for them, especially if they are not close to them. Their response is more work to catch up (financially or academically).

Additionally, course material may also be too hard, but in order to catch up, students will work extra hard, put in more hours.

In my opinion, if you're not even a bit sleep deprived, then you're doing college/university wrong :)

However, to solve sleep deprivation, make it more well known what an issue it is. Do posters, talks, and adverts about how ill health and poor academic performance are affected by lack of sleep. Additionally, try to keep lectures at normal times (9am to 5pm latest) and avoid weekends. I've known some lectures to take place at 7 or 8pm for 2 hours.

Source: ex-Student, filipino, friends who are filipino at colleges

  • This is not an answer. The OP is asking how to cope with the problem.
    – Nobody
    Mar 1, 2016 at 13:07
  • @scaaahu good point, i'll edit it to say Mar 1, 2016 at 13:42

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