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Fight for your right to sleep

I have an important and radical proposal for you all, so listen up.

This semester has generally been difficult for me so far because I have two classes which start before 10 a.m. And between my various responsibilities, I am in bed between midnight and 1:00 a.m. This just can’t go on. I need my sleep and I need my education, but without my nightly trip to the land of “Nod” it becomes difficult to function and therefore my education suffers.

Therefore, I will make known in this column the following: Sleep is a fundamental natural right and it is inhuman, cruel and unusual to penalize someone for getting up before 10 a.m.

How do I justify this assertion?

Simple. A natural right is a right which we have by virtue of being human. For example, freedom of speech is a natural right because our ability to speak and think does not depend upon some artificial means. The right to own property is natural because it is, according to John Locke, the application of natural mental or physical labor to that which already exists in nature. For most people, sleep comes naturally and does not need to be induced artificially. In fact, the inability to go to sleep can be a serious medical issue.

Since a large part of our mental and physical well-being depends on sleep and the exercise of other rights is often dependent upon mental and physical health, it stands to reason that sleep is one of the most fundamental rights, along with the right to life.

In the past 24 hours, most of my inhibitions have broken down and my mental health has deteriorated. I have recited Shakespearean soliloquies on the toilet, moon-walked through the library, and pondered how much travel time could be saved by using momentum and throwing myself down a flight of stairs. Yes, the magical world of sleep deprivation. More hardcore insomniacs experience wild hallucinations, such as being helicopters, or have visions of Mr. T.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep results in an increase in the risk of car accidents, an increase in obesity, a greater chance for diabetes and a shortened attention span. These effects have a huge bearing on our lives. Totalitarian governments, such as the Soviet Union, and not-so-totalitarian governments, such as the United Kingdom, have used sleep deprivation as a torture technique. Torture, everyone will agree, is an extreme violation of human rights and dignity – and since sleep deprivation is a technique used in “enhanced interrogations” around the world, it follows that sleep is most definitely a right.

Here on this campus, students are sleep deprived as a matter of course. Exams at 6:00 a.m.,  7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. – before anything opens to even admit the possibility of coffee – can be preceded by studying deep into the night, so that when the time comes for exams, they might have well spent the past 24 hours with the KGB.

It is not unreasonable to expect a student to be up and at ‘em at 9 a.m. But between work, class assignments and life in general, an early start gets to be too much. Benjamin Franklin said that “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But in the modern world, it is simply too difficult to go to bed early. Experts agree that more sleep benefits students and makes their lives better.

Some people try to combat their lack of sleep with energy drinks, like Red Bull, Rock Star or Monster. But those drinks often have a distinctly negative effect on health, containing 280mg of caffeine in an 8.5 ounce serving. Coffee, by contrast, contains 100mg per six ounces. The high sugar content in combination with the caffeine can lead to insomnia, an arrhythmic heart beat, and anxiety attacks.

Nothing can replace sleep. Not even Adderall.   

We must all pull together and fight for our right to a good night’s sleep. I encourage everyone to agitate on behalf of more sleep. Hold a sleep-in during the next early morning lecture you go to, or sleep out on the Campus Center lawn now and again. Sleep is precious; too precious to be withheld from those of us who need it most. As my final thought in this column, let me just say that it is vastly important to remember “Zzzz…”.

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at

5 Responses to “Fight for your right to sleep”
  1. muad'dib says:

    So why can’t you just go to sleep earlier? I ought to take a nap right now just to tease you.

  2. Jerry 09 says:

    College life is in a different time zone then the regular world. Everything is 3 or 4 hours off. A 9 am class? More like a 6 am class. Going out before 10? Pish posh. Sleep before 3? But adult swim is on. Ad infinitum.

  3. @Jerry the Adult Swim comment almost made me spit my coffee on the keyboard. So glad my TV broke for this very reason.

  4. Prova says:

    Glad to see US students are equally as slack as their UK counterparts — One day when you get a job you may have to be be up before 9am, imagine.

    Anyway, thanks for the laugh — If you need to be up late at night do what the Europeans do: Siesta, muchacho!

  5. Paul says:

    Fight for your right to sleep. Reading and sleeping in the library don’t mix in Chicago, it is a big crime.

    thanks for the nice article.

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