High levels of stress and insufficient sleep can impact students’ physical health, emotional wellbeing, and academic success. In fact, stress and insufficient sleep are the leading impediments to academic success among NYU students. Short-term effects of sleep deprivation include decreased cognitive function, memory, performance, and alertness. Minimizing stressors and supporting healthy coping strategies can help students reduce the destructive consequences of excessive stress and sleep deprivation, while improving their overall wellbeing, quality of life, and academic performance.
Incorporate simple stress-reduction techniques into your classroom like using a few minutes at the beginning of class to do meditation or breathing exercises to prepare for exam or lecture. For tips or downloadable MP3s, visit the NYU Relaxation Oasis.
Make assignments due in the afternoon or evening instead of in the early morning to encourage a good night’s sleep and discourage all-nighters.
Take time throughout the semester to say a few words about the importance of managing stress and where students can go for help. At the beginning of the semester and during difficult times of the semester, like around mid-terms and finals, remind students of resources to help them manage stress. Presenting these resources in an open and nonjudgmental way will help students see you as an ally while making them aware of helpful resources.
Tutorial support -- such as services from the Academic Resource Center, the Writing Center, or the University Learning Center-- can safeguard students from the consequences of stress.(9) As a faculty member in a position of respect and authority, your willingness to speak openly and positively about supportive services could help eliminate perceived stigma or shame for some students needing help.
Allow a few minutes after presenting assignments to take questions and provide clarifications – having a clear understanding of expectations can reduce student stress. (10)
Periodically remind your students of upcoming deadlines. Encouraging your students to begin projects and studying for exams earlier may help them avoid late night cram sessions, prevent high levels of stress and establish healthier sleep habits. Pulling all-nighters compromises student (overall) sleep and makes it difficult to reach full academic potential.
Give consistent feedback to students and be accessible to discuss their work to inspire the positive stress that propels students to act instead of the negative stress that impairs learning outcomes. (11)
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6. American College Health Association. (2009). American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment II: New York University Executive Summary Spring 2009. H, MD: Author.
7. Ratcliff, R., & Van Dongen, H.P. (2009). Sleep deprivation affects multiple distinct cognitive processes. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 16(4), 742-51.
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9. Klainberg, M., Ewing, B., & Ryan, M. (2010). Reducing stress on a college campus. Journal of the New York State Nurses Association, 41(2), 4-7.
10. Lumley, M. A., & Provenzano, K. M. (2003). Stress management through written emotional disclosure improves academic perform ance among college st
11. Warnecke, E., Quinn, S., Ogden, K., Towle, N. & Nelson, M.R. A randomised controlled trial of the effects of mindfulness practice on medical student stress levels. Medical Education, 45(4), 381–388.
12. Brown, F.C., Buboltz, & W.C., Soper, B. (2006). Development and Evaluation of the Sleep Treatment and Education Program for Students (STEPS). Journal of American College Health, 54(4), 231-237.
13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011, January). Sleep hygiene tips. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.