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College Students and Sleep Part 3

Owl habits.

Teens and young adults are well known for their ability to sleep in until noon. A significant portion of 15-25 year olds are known to sleep scientists as "owls." Their internal clocks are longer than 24 hours. That means, if they were kept in a dark room for weeks, they would awaken and sleep in cycles of 26 hours, for example.

In the case of a 24 hour cycle, someone who wakes up at 8am would be sleepy by midnight. But if they have a 26 hour cycle, they wouldn't be sleepy until 2am. But in both cases, they would still have to wake up at 8am the next day. The owl suffers from sleep deprivation because they can't fall asleep and they still have to wake up 2 hours earlier than when their body is ready.

The best way for owls to deal with the faulty internal clock is to train it every day. Bright outdoor sunlight is the most powerful device for training the clock. Owls should get as much sun as possible early in the morning. Making sure that the dorm room window faces east and opening the blinds first thing in the morning are helpful. Once awake, plan an activity that involves being outside — like studying outside or walking to class. In the evening, avoid bright lights, including bright computer screens. Turn down the brightness setting on the computer screen and don't watch too much TV.

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