How many times when you ask someone how they’re doing do they answer: “I’m tired”? As a culture, we are constantly overworking ourselves, disregarding sleep, and choosing short-term pleasures that don’t amount to real, much needed rest. The extent to which we overlook the importance of sleep for both physical and mental health has caused the Center for Disease Control to declare sleep deprivation a national epidemic. This issue is very apparent on Miami’s campus and needs to be addressed for the health of its students.
Why do Miami students who know sleep is necessary for health still chose other activities over sleep?
Being motivated by the benefits of sleep, Miami students will effectively use their time in both the day and night to prioritize mental and physical health and make responsible decisions in favor of sleep.
Miami students who know the importance of sleep, but lack the motivation to prioritize it.
The facts alone are convincing:
All the knowledge and memories you acquire during the day are stored during sleep.
Toxins build up in your brain, and they must be cleaned away during sleep to prevent consequences like Alzheimer's.
Sleep is vital for your cognitive ability. Going 19 hours without sleep can give you the cognitive ability of someone over the legal driving intoxication limit.
I furthered my research with a survey to find out:
How much do students sleep?
What is prioritized over sleep?
Does anyone care?
With almost 300 respondents, I learned:
13% of students are getting enough sleep, 8 hours every night.
67% of students are in a function range with 6-8 hours.
20% of students are getting dangerously low amounts of sleep, with less than 6 hours and some less than 4 each night.
On a typical weeknight past midnight, if students aren’t sleeping they responded they were most likely doing homework or hanging out with friends. Streaming movies/tv, playing video games, and going to bars were other likely reasons.
During in-person interviews I asked:
What motivates them to sleep?
How do they make the decision to sleep or not?
Common themes were:
“I totally feel better when I sleep BUT…”
“..I compromise sleep for other obligations”
“..I get FOMO”
“..It’s important for me to have time restfully awake”
I decided to create a design solution that would help students get their priorities straight and better manage their time to make room for sleep. Despite the harsh facts, I needed to take a lighthearted approach in order to reach college students and get them on board with this new mindset.
The idea of adult bedtime stories came up in conversation with other students. I thought: What if I could write and illustrate a story that would be both entertaining and educational? Several students commented they would totally get something like this for their one friend who doesn’t get enough sleep. I liked the concept of incorporating sheep to allude to the childhood idea of counting your sheep. All I needed was a catchphrase:
Get The Flock to Sleep.
Get the Flock to sleep is a companion set of books.
The first is the playful piece: an adult bedtime story. This is the component to get people interested. Combining sleep puns and implied adult language, this book takes a humorous approach to the childhood bedtime ritual. It follows a shepherd who faces a lot of distractions (relating back to my research) that could keep him from getting the flock to sleep. In the end, he gets the flock to sleep and sees the benefit of proper sleep the next morning.
The second book is the practical piece: a daily and nightly sleep planner.
Being motivated by what is learned in the book, students have the opportunity to proactively make sleep a priority. This planner includes typical weekly planner pages, allowing users to plan their days. Sleep facts are also included as an educational tidbit for each week.
What makes this planner unique is that it’s just as focused on the night as it is the day. In addition to daily planning, there is a spread for every night. There, students can prioritize what they want to get done before bed and make room for timely sleep. There is also a place for reminders for the morning, so the mind can be clear knowing they’ve put down on paper everything that needs to get done the next day. Students can track the number of hours of sleep they get each night and correlate it to how they feel in the morning for some personal accountability. There is even a place for recording dreams.
Altogether, Get the Flock to Sleep provides a fun, yet educational way for students to make sleep a priority in their lives and encourage their friends to do the same.