UI Student Health offers new sleep program

BY CASSIDY RILEY | MAY 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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More than 100 students took advantage of a new program offered by University of Iowa Student Health Service this semester to help them catch more Zs.

Refresh is an eight-week program in which students receive weekly emails with information and strategies to try to get better sleep. According to the 2012 National College Health Assessment, sleep difficulties rank in the top five stressors for UI students.

“That’s why we felt that we needed to address the issue, and that’s why we wanted to find some early intervention that could help students,” said Tanya Villhauer, the Student Health associate director for education.

Villhauer said the Student Health staff members are pleased with having 105 students participate in the program because they did a soft rollout this semester. She said over the summer, they will evaluate comments from students on how helpful the program was and do more advertisement in the fall.

Karla McGregor,  UI professor of communication science and disorders, said she is glad Student Health is taking the initiative to address this health concern.

“The kinds of behavior students sometimes engage in, like cramming instead of sleeping, are usually counterproductive,” she said. “People who are tired don’t remember as well [or] learn as well, either.”

UI neurology Professor Mark Dyken, the director of the UI Hospitals and Clinics Sleep Disorders Center, said some students with sleep concerns may have more serious disorders, but he applauds Student Health for helping those who simply need more sleep.

“I think that’s awfully nice that they are working on a program to remind you of the obvious,” he said. “There’s something about sleep that keeps you healthy.”

Some of the concepts the program addresses include learning about sleep and the sleep cycle, breathing techniques, and adjusting the sleep environment.

Mickey Trockel, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavior science at Stanford University — created the program. He said he created it based on similar concepts doctors use when helping insomnia patients.

“I felt like it would be useful, [and] it would be something that students might buy into,” he said.

Villhauer said Student Health spoke with different departments on campus, including Academic Advising and UI Counseling. Director of UI Counseling Sam Cochran said they made about 45 referrals to the program.

“Over half of the students who visit us here at the Counseling Service have a sleep disturbance of some kind,” he said. “Sleep disturbances can set the stage for other kinds of mental-heath disturbances.”

Cochran said 59.5 percent of students who visit UI Counseling report sleep disturbances.

Some students said they think the program sounds useful.

“I think students don’t get enough sleep due to stress,” UI sophomore Ryan Bedingfield said. “Personally, I don’t get enough sleep because I have roommates who have people over until 3 a.m.”

UI junior Danica Schrader said she would consider utilizing the program if more sleep could help her get better grades.

“It’s so important to get good grades, so you think you have to stay up all night studying,” she said. “Maybe if you got more sleep instead of staying up all night, you could get a better grade.”

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