Letter to the Editor: November 14, 2014

Dear Editor of the Manitou Messenger,

A recent article written by Ben Pelegano in the “St. Olaf Sentiments” column of the Variety section deeply concerned me. In this satirical article, the author encourages students to “never sleep” and states that sleep is a “social construct” that one doesn’t need and when a person is tired and unable to “form coherent sentences at breakfast” they should take a lot of power naps and drink coffee.

While I believe the tone of the article was intentionally flippant, the message was still serious – not sarcastic. The final conclusion of the article is that if you go to bed early you are missing out on all the wonderful things St. Olaf has to offer, and if you aren’t tired, you aren’t truly an Ole. Since sleep is a critical part of maintaining mental health, I found this article ironic in an issue of the Mess where the front-page story was about our campus depression confessions.

I believe this line of thinking perpetuates a dangerous culture here at St. Olaf. It’s one that says being exhausted is the norm and if you aren’t killing yourself with two majors, a concentration, 10 extracurricular clubs and a job while also being social then you somehow aren’t taking advantage of everything St. Olaf has to offer. But that’s just it: a person can’t do everything. This article perpetuates the FOMO fear of missing out syndrome that is prevalent here and in our generation as a whole. If we have to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. on a weeknight just to have social time, I believe we are doing something wrong.

Instead, I would like to counter this article with the idea that we can make the most of our four years here without sacrificing our mental, physical and spiritual health.

Getting eight hours of sleep a night might make our St. Olaf experience richer because we can engage in our classes without falling asleep, and having a less-packed schedule would allow us to actually sit down for dinner with friends and have a meaningful conversation. What if we envision a St. Olaf where students are involved and engaged, but also healthy? Where our involvement doesn’t stem from the fear of missing out on something, but from a genuine interest in learning or spending time with others. Where being an Ole means valuing sleep and health as much as we value our academic, extracurricular and social experiences.

Sonja Helgeson ’15 helgesos@stolaf.edu is from Andover, Minn. She majors in biology and environmental studies.