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Student Wellness Matters: Innovative Student Wellness Strategy for 2020-21

The influence of the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting unprecedented financial pressure impact all aspects of activities and life on campus, from education to any additional services students should get while engaging in their studies.

Life on campus – wellness centers under pressure

The wellness centers on all universities and college campuses have a significant role in supporting the students’ adaptation to their life on campus, from academic and social activities to dealing with the pressing challenges posed by entering their adult life and building a safe structure for a good and productive life at both the personal and societal levels. The role of the wellness centers as the primary source of knowledge and support for the students’ emotional and curricular challenges is clearly jeopardized by this ongoing crisis.

Many wellness centers have closed their gates or are only able to provide information about the pandemic. Others offer information regarding available resources for the students’ daily life, or support via phone calls with certified psychologists, online meditation, and yoga sessions—all to create the necessary ingredients for the wellbeing of the students during these times of uncertainty.

Serious concerns remain regarding the ability to continue supporting the students through the summer and during the upcoming school year in just a few months. The COVID-19 significantly increased the need for wellness services to support the students who are recovering from the crisis with adjusting to the “new normal” life on campus dictated by the pandemic, and the need to curb its effects. These increased needs are facing economic shrinkage caused by the same crisis. Staff is facing layoffs, restructuring salaries, and benefits reductions.

The already present loss of equilibrium adds stress to the wellness staff and hovers over the ability of the departments to perform according to their mission and the overwhelming needs. Students and wellness departments staff need to fuel their physical, emotional and mental resources while attempting to cross the ongoing crisis safely and to prepare for the next challenges associated with the path to normalization. The vast barriers in the way to provide wellness services in light of the significantly increased need for support can be overcome only by considering new, innovative ways to ensure efficient help.

Student Wellness Matters.

No wonder that student’s wellness takes a hit. First, the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis on mental health is high, as indicated in a mental health survey by Active Minds, an NGO focused on student wellness and mental issues. The research has concluded that 1 in 5 students feel that their mental health significantly worsened since the COVID-19 outbreak started; specifically, 91% reported that they feel anxiety and stress; 81% feel disappointment and sadness; 80% feel lonely and isolated. Students’ wellness and mental health affects their ability to study, write papers, focus on their classes, succeed in exams, and simply enjoy their day to day life, feel energized and refreshed.

Unfortunately, this pressure on wellness centers comes at a bad time, given the students’ state. Students are an integral part of our society and at a specific crossroads in life, that of transition to adulthood and independent living, which has always been a challenge. The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences raised this challenge to extreme levels.

Social distancing caused separation from friends and peers. Some students were requested to move out of their housing and to take online classes, another source of economic pressure. Thus, the financial burden imposed by the lockdown made a living on their own impossible and forced many to return to live with their parents, adding to the already existing stressors. Additional stress and anxiety are caused by the fact that students are now questioning their ability to return their student loans, soon with the forecast of soaring unemployment to reach above 20% in the next few months.

The recommended remedy: Sleep.

Indeed, wellness staff members’ experience and the “Active Minds” survey clearly indicate that students suffer from mental health distress. Student wellness centers are well aware of the problem and worry about further deterioration to come unless effective intervention and prevention measures are provided.

Sleep is directly influenced as well by the ongoing crisis. The lockdown conditions increased the sleep opportunity, and indeed people slept more, and they woke up a bit later. However, this may be a bit misleading, as the stress and the anxiety related to the ongoing situation increase the prevalence of sleep complaints in the population.

The Covid-19 has disrupted the lives of many students and campus staff, causing physical and mental burn-outs, which manifests in decreased physical activity, a rise in obesity problems, reports of increasing symptoms of anxiety and stress, and sleep problems.
An observational study indicates that the prevalence of sleep-related complaints of difficulties falling asleep or sleeping through the night and waking up not exhausted, increased by 6% in March-April 2020, compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

Research performed during the past two decades indicates that there is a bidirectional connection between mood and sleep deficiencies. Research also indicates that by improving sleep, performance upgrades as well, and the mood is positively influenced. Waking up, refreshed, represents a good start for the day. Students’ wellness centers are well aware of the sleep-mood connection. Sleep is an excellent natural remedy, remote, and readily available.

Behavioral changes, emotional swings, stress, and anxiety are well-known sleep disruptors. Thus, a straightforward way to help with student wellness is to provide efficient ways to improve students’ sleep, so they can wake up refreshed and ready for their daily tasks.
Good sleep will reduce mood instability during the day and will improve performance, both physical and academic. Additional bonuses are better control over food cravings and less consumption of alcohol.

Regular sleep-help interventions are time-consuming, require human therapist participation that is scarce and bears high costs. These solutions were almost unreachable before the COVID-19, and even more so now. Smart digital interventions are available to provide immediate help and relief from sleep difficulties, helping students to fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly, and wake up feeling refreshed for the day.

A couple of leading US universities and their student wellness departments, like the University of Iowa, MIT, and the University of Kentucky, have embraced the Refresh Sleep Program powered by Sleeprate. This program aims to provide students and staff with the skills, strategies, and support to achieve more restful nights. The Refresh Sleep Program powered by Sleeprate comprehensive all-in-one solution helps deliver a better sleep-life balance and improve mental and physical performance – allowing users to be more productive and lead a healthier lifestyle.

The program was designed by Sleeprate, which provides world-class technologies that offer people the most effective, reliable, and user-friendly sleep analysis, monitoring, assessment, and therapy – all in a single solution. Since 2006, with over half-a-decade of proven efficacy, Sleeprate has a proven, patented sleep analysis and validated assessment, alongside a CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia) smart algorithm solution.

Sleeprate’s unique sleep evaluation solution for improving sleep-life balance was developed and customized as a step-by-step program to improve mental and physical performance so that people can be more productive and effective throughout the day.