Knocked Out: Challenge Inspires College Kids to Get Some ZZZZs

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kid listening to music picture

The Huffington Post is challenging college students to get eight hours of sleep (a night). Credit: Corbis

Sleep? Please. Who needs it? Isn't that what Red Bull is for?

It's a one-way conversation all too familiar for parents of college students. "Sleep is just sooooooo overrated Mom," is the mantra of this nocturnal set.

But now, the Huffington Post has created a challenge to incoming college freshman designed to get them to cut out all-nighters and cut back on the multiple caffeinated beverages that keep their eyelids open all day.

Please, contest gods, tell us your secret. The Freshman 8 is a spin-off of the old freshman 15 motif, and focuses instead on the health benefits of a good eight hours of sleep, Dr. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and member of the American Board of Sleep Medicine who is overseeing the contest, tells the website.

Weight gain is not uncommon, Breus tells the Huffington Post, but neither is a full night's sleep. He cites a 2001 study by the American College Health Association that shows only 11 percent of college students consistently sleep well. Adequate sleep, he says, can lead to higher grades, heightened performance and better health.

So the Huffington Post tracked the progress of students who entered the contest on Facebook and have come up with six well-rested finalists who are in the running to win a trip to New York City during the site's Oct. 28 Game Changers Event.

Leah Finnegan, a college correspondent for the site and editor of the Daily Texan at the University of Texas-Austin, says all-nighters aren't worth it on her Huffington Post blog.

"You see, just a short month ago, I would have awoken bleary-eyed and confused after an unsatisfying five hours of sleep," she writes. "Throughout the day I would have had multiple caffeinated beverages. All day I would think about sleeping, only to stumble home at 8 p.m. and find myself wide awake, neurons somehow pulsing on the dregs of coffee in my veins. Sleep would come six sad hours later. And then the whole thing would begin again. It's really no way to live, and it's a cycle that started for me in college, when varied wake-up times, free-flowing legal stimulants and midday naps were new and interesting."

It's tough to rack up the ZZZs in the student lounge or when your roommate is throwing a bash. Breus suggests students get earplugs, an eye mask and a good set of headphones.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.