The Sacred Purpose Blog

College students, like many Americans overall, are sleeping less, and if you are like most students, chances are you are not getting enough sleep.  The college years are notoriously sleep-deprived.   On average, most college students get about 6 hours of sleep per night.  Sleep impacts every aspect of our lives—our health, our performance, our memory, our safety, our relationships, our well-being, our longevity—everything.  Indeed, sleep really matters!  I am hoping we can change the attitude about sleep so it’s no longer viewed as a low priority or a necessary evil.  Instead, I hope the men of Theta Chi will view sleep as foundation to our good health and our Sacred Purpose.

Data from a recent survey shows that 25 percent of students report sleep as being “traumatic or difficult to handle,” and students rank sleep problems second only to stress in factors that negatively impact academic performance.  Poor sleep does more than hinder academic success; disruptions in sleep cause accidents, impair decision making, and exacerbate illness.  As the esteemed University of Oxford scientist Russel Foster noted in his 2013 Ted Talk, “Sleep, in a single behavior, is the most important thing we do.” 

Certainly for some students, undiagnosed sleep disorders are wreaking havoc on their lives, and clinical sleep assessments and treatments would be helpful.  However, for the vast majority of students, what is robbing them of sleep is not a disorder, but instead a “perfect storm” of erratic scheduling, late night electronics use, energy drinks, stress, over-scheduling, and procrastination.

It’s well documented that sleep deprived students perform significantly worse than students who regularly get a good night’s sleep.  REM sleep is particularly important for consolidating newly learned information, and a large proportion of REM sleep occurs towards the end of the night.  So studying most of the night for a test, and then sleeping only a few hours, decreases your ability to remember new information.

Establishing a Sleep Ritual

Individuals regularly getting high quality sleep often have a sleep ritual that allows for 8-9 hours of sleep each night.  A sleep ritual is a routine that helps the mind and body wind down at the end of the day in preparation for a good night’s sleep.  In evaluating your sleep, does your sleep ritual include the following?

  • Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends.  Sleeping more than 1-2 hours more on the weekend can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythms, so a regular wake schedule is important.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as reading a book or listening to soothing music.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least 2 hours before bedtime, as exercising before you sleep can leave your body too energized to relax.
  • Avoid long naps of more than 30 minutes that can throw off your sleep cycle.
  • Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate) 3-4 hours before bedtime. It can keep you awake.
  • Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.  Alcohol can make you feel tired because it is a depressant and has sedative qualities, but drinking alcohol can interrupt sleep and interfere with the quality of your sleep. It can also magnify the effects of sleep deprivation

What can you do with this information? 

  • Use it as a personal guide for improved overall health and academic performance
  • Share it with your chapter brothers at the next chapter meeting
  • Invite a local sleep expert to speak to your chapter
  • Sponsor an event that highlights the importance of sleep for your Greek community or your entire campus community.

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In my last blog post, I shared that we were seeking 145 pioneering leaders to launch a big idea.  I know now that we found them!

This past weekend, each chapter and colony sent their newly-elected Vice President of Health and Safety to Indianapolis for our Sacred Purpose Launch Event.  It began like every other event.  Brothers from every corner of the country nervously gathered in the hotel atrium hoping they would measure up to the other brothers in the room and to the demands of their new leadership position.  As the time passed, we realized we were not surrounded by strangers.  We quickly learned that the room was filled with brothers who would soon become our friends.  The sweet sounds of fellowship slowly swelled and grew into a rumble.  It was quite amazing.  Even in those early stages of the event, we all knew that we were in the right place to do something remarkable in the history of Theta Chi. 

The Launch Event was not for the faint of heart.  We worked hard, but the brothers did not skip a beat.  Even though we started early in the morning and worked late into the night, these men were engaged and locked into our common mission to more intentionally inspire a better fraternity and a deeper brotherhood.  We brought in an all-star lineup of speakers to inspire, equip and connect the guys.  Together, we explored topics such as Our Sacred Purpose, Understanding Today’s College Students, Achieving High Performance Friendship, Building Brotherhood Through Stories, Recognizing When a Brother Needs Help, Reaching Out and Helping Brothers in Need, Working with Campus Professionals and Partners, Organizing Campus-Wide Events, and Influencing Chapter Culture.  We also carved out time so each brother could create an intentional, written plan for his term in office. 

Throughout the event, we spent a lot of time telling stories about our lives and our need for one another.  As each story was told, we grew closer together and became more deeply committed to our Sacred Purpose of being there for one another and for all brothers.  It was impressive as the men courageously and transparently shared about their sadness, joys, hurts, insecurities, accomplishments, losses, fears, and friendships.  Honestly, I was moved by their stories, many of which had never been heard before.  It was remarkable really how the men trusted one another with their secrets.  They listened to one another, they honored one another and they loved one another.   Throughout the process, they became one—one in spirit and one in purpose. 

In the past few days, I have received many notes from the men who attended the event.  I wanted to share one that shines light on our collective transformation.

“I just wanted to say thank you once again for putting on such an inspiring weekend and initiative. I also want to say thank you for sharing your story with us and inspiring others to do the same.  This weekend has been nothing like I expected it to be but it has been greater than I ever could have imagined. Not only did this weekend inspire me to be fully behind Theta Chi and our Sacred Purpose but it has inspired me to live a better life as a man in such a broken and unhealthy society. You have illustrated to me and helped me realize that happiness is not found in tangible things—in women, in parties, or self-satisfaction.  By being the man you are and putting on this conference you have reminded me that happiness is found when one lives their life to help themselves, help others, and make the world a better place. Thank you for changing my heart and mind and helping remove these false areas of satisfaction and guiding me towards true happiness. You also taught me what it means to love someone. I had always focused on the feeling, but what you have taught me will benefit many of my current and future relationships.

I really cannot express my gratitude in words, but thank you, you are doing an incredible thing and inspiring many people in such a broken world.  Let the Movement begin!!!”

                                                I see you,

Chandler Ignaszewski

Alpha Pi- University of Minnesota

 The men have returned to their home chapters.  They have already begun their work, and I hear many are having good success even in these first few days.  I ask all brothers, young and old, to support these courageous and pioneering leaders who are our first Vice Presidents of Health and Safety.  By supporting them, you can make their work easier and make our Fraternity better. 

Sacred Purpose is now officially launched.  I can promise you one thing.  There is no going back.  We are too committed now.  We all agreed last weekend that we will never, ever give up on our Sacred Purpose.  It is who we are as brothers.  It is who we are as a fraternity.

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