Photo of a coffee cup and phone with sleep app open, sitting on a page of student's notes

Dear Freshman Me: Get Some Sleep

Written by Callahan Stoub

Dear Freshman Me,

Let me tell you a story from next month. I’m sure you’re excited to visit your older brother for a Michigan State Football game in a few weeks. It will be a great weekend full of family and football. Mom and dad will pick you up Friday night, and for the first time this semester, you’ll be able to go to sleep before midnight. In fact, you’ll actually wake up at 3 a.m. because you’re used to only getting four or five hours of sleep, and you should be waking up by now if you were in bed by 10:30 p.m. On this night, you’ll get twice as much sleep as you’ve gotten any night all semester.

Will this convince you to get more sleep? No. I know all your excuses: having a social life, writing a paper, finishing the readings, the list goes on. I know it’s hard to have those 8:30 a.m. classes (thank God for that extra half hour). Furthermore, you’re young, spry, and can handle a little less sleep, right?

Fast forward to spring sophomore year. New Year’s resolutions are kicking in, and you’re ready to prioritize your health by getting enough sleep. I challenged you to get eight hours of sleep every night, and it turned out to be one of your most successful goals during one of your most successful semesters. The first few weeks went well until the homework started piling up, confronting you with a dilemma: finish the reading or go to sleep. Believe it or not, getting enough sleep will prepare you better for class. It will amaze you how much better your attention is during class when you get enough sleep. Now instead of trying to stay awake, you’re trying to understand the material and ask good questions. Instead of counting down the minutes until you can retreat to your room for a quick afternoon nap, you have the energy to get you through the day. Instead of hitting the snooze button in an attempt to steal a few more seconds of sleep, you roll out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off. You feel better. You think better. You do better in class. It’s a win.

Junior year, you’ll be in a freshman dorm as an RA, and it will make you feel old. That 10:30 p.m. bedtime you defended last year? That’s four hours before your neighbors go to bed. They—just like you now—want to impress their professors with all their notes and perfect papers while also embracing the freedom to run around with friends at 2 a.m. It blew my mind that they could function on four hours of sleep. Then I realized, that’s who you are. I had to smile when I stopped to ask one girl how her exam went that day in mid-February. She lit up to share her epiphany that since she went to bed early last night (read: 1 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.), she was actually able to focus and think clearly for the exam. “Isn’t it crazy how that works?” she proclaimed. Yes, it is crazy. It’s almost as if sleep is an essential part of human functioning.

Eventually, you’ll figure it out. Until then, best of luck.

Student Callie Stoub Callie Stoub, ’21, hails from the Southwestern corner of Michigan, best known for its beaches along Lake Michigan, and studies history. When she’s not reminiscing on her time at Hillsdale, you may find her diagramming sentences for fun or experimenting with creative omelet recipes.

Published in December 2020