It’s 3 a.m. and you saunter over to the library’s coffee machine to snag yet another cup of lukewarm, dishwater-tasting coffee and trudge back to your desk. At least you’ve got an energy drink to wash down the vaguely bitter taste.
This may sound like a stereotypical finals-week nightmare, but it’s a reality for more than a hundred students every night in Powell Library. According to Carlo Medina, director of UCLA Access Services, even more students show up during midterms and finals. Despite constant reminders that sleep is essential to their health and academic success, students often ignore the facts in favor of ambition.
Time management is difficult, and sleep is often the first thing students sacrifice to finish their coursework. But UCLA’s most popular libraries encourage this willful sleep deprivation and support poor study habits by staying open 24 hours a day.
Night Powell, Powell Library’s late-night study space, stays open all night five days per week, and Charles E. Young Research Library extends its hours during tenth and finals weeks.
Both libraries should move away from their 24-hour policies and close at 2 a.m. every night, even during tenth and finals weeks. The current hours don’t help students practice healthy study habits and could even contribute to sleep loss – and as a result, poor academic performance. And in order to help students adjust to these early closing times, the administration should employ student groups such as the undergraduate student government’s Student Wellness Commission to educate students about better studying habits.
Cramming or pulling all-nighters is detrimental to students’ well-being and is counterproductive to memorization and academic achievement. Studies have found sleep is imperative for memory processes, particularly the first night of sleep after learning something new. Ultimately, losing sleep contributes to a diminished capacity for academic performance the following day. Additionally, sleep-deprived students are working harder only to perform more poorly. This means that late-night studying is essentially a waste of time.
And it’s worth noting that all-nighter behavior doesn’t even help students who cram. According to David Earnest, Ph.D., who studies circadian rhythms at Texas A&M College of Medicine, the brain becomes less efficient with less sleep. All-nighters activate short-term memory rather than long-term memory. In other words, the new memories formed during a cram session won’t stick around. Even if students aren’t worried about the adverse health effects, they’re not going to be able to utilize what they studied in the wee hours of the morning.
Even if their cramming sessions earn them A’s on their finals, students still wouldn’t be able to remember too much of the material afterwards. In an attempt to aid students in their scholarly pursuits, UCLA libraries have instead supported the opposite.
If the mere inefficiency of such practice hasn’t convinced you to avoid your textbooks at 3 a.m., sleep deprivation is linked to higher risk of depression and suicidal behaviors, which already heavily impacts college students. Students’ GPAs are not worth risking their mental health.
Regardless, all-nighters are not a sustainable study habit and UCLA libraries shouldn’t enable behavior that puts students at greater risk of mental illness. Reducing libraries’ late-night hours and supplementing those early closing times with workshops encouraging students to develop more healthy study habits would send a message that UCLA does not support students’ poor study practices.
Altering the library hours – which would only affect Young Research Library during tenth and finals weeks and Night Powell – would minimally affect students who already study there. Peak attendance at Night Powell occurs between midnight and 2 a.m. and tapers off by 4 a.m., at which point students will stay through the night, according to Medina. These stragglers would be the only students affected.
And some students even support the suggested new hours.
“Lack of sleep … takes away my edge,” said Duncan Brouwer, a first-year neuroscience student and Night Powell patron.
Brouwer added he feels fewer students will remain in the library through the night because they simply don’t have the option to – if students have limited time, they wouldn’t be staying up late merely because they have a place to do so.
Sure, not all students will go home and sleep once the library closes at 2 a.m., and the early closing times would certainly prove inconvenient for them. But such an inconvenience – along with university-supported workshops about developing healthier study habits – would force students to think twice about risking their health for a late night.
And while many students appreciate that libraries are open to cater to their late-night needs, closing at 2 a.m. still provides students with a secure place to study during the night. Moreover, the peak library traffic ends at 2 a.m., so the modified hours wouldn’t impact too many students.
UCLA is home to many brilliant minds, and to cater to students’ ill-planning and sleepless nights is counterintuitive and detrimental to their health and academic success. UCLA’s library system must practice tough love and tell students what they need to hear: Get some sleep.