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Duke cuts 8 a.m. classes to help students get more sleep

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University is eliminating 8 a.m. classes and trying to come up with other ways help its sleep-deprived students, who too often are struggling to survive on a mix of caffeine, adrenaline, and ambition.

The school is also considering new orientation programs this fall that would help freshmen understand the importance of sleep.

Although lack of sleep among college students is an old problem, it appears to be getting worse, according to some national surveys. College students sleep an average of six to seven hours a night, down from seven to 7 in the 1980s. Last month, the University of Michigan held a national conference on sleep, stress, depression, and college students.

James Clack, Duke's director of counseling and psychological services, said the latest research shows that college-age people should get nine hours of sleep a night.

Duke wants students to consider adequate sleep a part of overall wellness. One idea is to do individual health assessments for each student and set goals for good nutrition, exercise, and plenty of shut-eye.

Even if there will be no more 8 a.m. classes, plenty will be starting at 8:30 -- that will still be a shock to some students who have never had classes before 9.

''We're going to have a lot of grumbling next fall when the reality sets in," said Judith Ruderman, vice provost. ''But you know what? They're resourceful and they'll manage." Her advice to sleepwalking students? Take an afternoon nap.

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