All Harvard undergraduates are this year taking part in a pioneering course on sleep before they arrive on campus, in a bid to combat the growing culture of pulling caffeine-fuelled all-nighters.
Professor Charles Czeisler, a sleep expert at Harvard Medical School, designed the course, which he believes is the first of its kind in the United States.
He found students at the world's number one university, despite being academically gifted, are often clueless when it comes to the very basics about how to look after themselves.
Czeisler was inspired to start the course after giving a talk on the impact sleep deprivation had on learning. "At the end of it one girl came up to me and said: 'Why am I only being told this now, in my senior year'? She said no one had ever told her about the importance of sleep - which surprised me," he says.
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The course, rolled out for the first time this year, explains to students how good sleep habits help academic and athletic performance, as well as improve general wellbeing.
Professor Paul Barreira, a Harvard psychiatry professor and executive director of the university's health services, said it was decided to introduce the course amid growing concerns about the impact of sleep deprivation on learning. "A few years ago we carried out a study by putting monitors on students' wrists. We found they were seriously sleep deprived during the week, and attempting to catch up at weekends - which wasn't a good way of behaving."
"We know it won't change students' behaviour instantly," said Czeisler. "But we believe they have a right to know - just as you have a right to know the health effects of choosing to smoke cigarettes."