Sleep professor: 'Night library is not a good idea'

Foto: DUB Maarten Hartman

It almost seems like an impossible task; obtaining a study place in the university library. Already in the early morning there are rows in front of the building and in no time every place is occupied. Especially during exam periods, students have to fight for their study place in order to study in peace. To change that, universities come up with a new solution: the night library, which is open 24 hours a day.

Fifteen students at peak time
The university library of Maastricht had a branch in The Student Hotel for three weeks, where students could study all night long. The experiment was not a success, writes university magazine Observant. At the busiest moment, only fifteen students were studying and most of them left around one or half past one.

However, other universities are also playing with the idea of keeping their library open for longer. For example, according to the central student council of the University of Amsterdam there is a need for a night library. The council has asked the board to launch a pilot.

At least seven hours of sleep
Not a good idea, says sleep expert Ton Coenen, emeritus professor at Radboud University. According to him, students must sleep at least seven hours a day. If they do not, the body loses several functions. The immune system deteriorates and the memory decreases. “You need sleep to store everything you've just learned.”

According to Coenen, students are already sleepy even after staying up one night. “Then you immediately see a decrease in alertness and attention.” That is not beneficial for taking an exam, says the sleep professor. “In the middle of the night, between 3 and 5 a.m., it is wise to go to sleep.”

Increase of stress and burnout complaints
And what about the mental condition of students? Night libraries will only aggravate stress and burnout complaints, warns  (in Dutch, ed) University of Amsterdam student Tammie Schoots in Folia. “This is indicative of how separate the counsel is from daily reality.”

Student organization ISO believes that institutions should take the responsibility to “protect students against the consequences of maximum performance”. They do think that universities should make that assessment themselves.

Working at daytime, studying at night time
The National Student Union LSVb thinks differently about this. “I think it is good that universities take into account students who have to work during the day because of the loan system and who want to study at night,” says the chair Carline van Breugel.

She is not worried about a further increase in burn-out complaints, which the LSVb often warns about. “I don't think opening or opening up libraries has much influence on the mental health of students. They are mature enough to decide for themselves when they are going to study, whether they do it in the UB or at home in bed.”