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Easy access to things such as 5-hour Energy drinks encourages students to participate in habits that are detrimental to their health.

On a typical weekday night, the glow from Carrier Library’s windows can be seen from the Quad as students dutifully study inside. As the night becomes the early morning, yawns can grow more frequent, as do the dark circles under students’ eyes. 

While studying is vital to most students’ educations, there becomes a point where the habit is detrimental to mental health. JMU makes it extremely easy for students to stay up studying with the resources it provides, such as keeping both Carrier and Rose Library open until 2 a.m. Starbucks also remains open inside the libraries until 1 a.m. and students can even purchase bottles of 5-hour Energy drinks from a vending machine in Carrier. 

The significance of sleep isn’t completely known, but it’s understood that sleep and mental health are linked, according to Harvard Medical School. Sleep issues may even increase the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety. In fact, anxiety is the top mental illness in college students, affecting 41.6% of them, according to the American Psychological Association, Sleep affects more than just mental health⁠ — it also has a large impact on grades due to the effect sleep has on crucial cognitive skills like memory and focus. Certain subjects are more reliant on these skills than others, meaning improved sleep could assist more with English, math and foreign languages. 

While the act of studying itself isn’t harmful, students forcing themselves to stay awake to study is unhealthy. And while it’s the student’s decision to do so, the university shouldn’t enable it and make the habit commonplace. In this scenario, JMU is similar to a parent. Rather than giving into demands, the university should know better and refuse to support unhealthy study habits for the betterment of the students. In reality, JMU preaches this message of student self-care by constantly advertising the resources available to students, such as the counseling center, however there’s a severe difference between its policies and its message. In fact, as of recently, JMU will be lessening the amount of students able to meet individually with a counselor and students will be redirected to other counseling options instead,  limiting the help available for the student body. 

These unhealthy studying habits have rippled across the student body, creating the expectation and encouragement of studying late. Students can often be heard bragging about how late they were at the library and how little they slept, reflecting the academic pressure put on students by others and by themselves and creating a competition to one-up each other. If gradual change was made to alter JMU’s current policies, these attitudes among students could change. Additionally, allowing the libraries to remain open late doesn’t encourage students to finish work in a timely manner. Students may not feel the need to complete work as soon as it’s assigned as long as the option to do it the night before in a silent environment exists. 

Students themselves are not at fault for merely using what JMU has given them, but JMU can and should do better for its students. Instead of preaching and practicing different methods about mental health, policies should change to reflect what JMU claims their values are. To display JMU values mental health, JMU should stop advertising how late libraries and Starbucks are open on tours to potential students, begin removing 5-hour Energy drinks from the vending machines and start posting reminders on the importance of sleep in the library. JMU owes its students the best learning environment possible, and mental health is a point that can’t be compromised.

Allie Boulier is a freshman biology major. Contact Allie at boulieas@dukes.jmu.edu.