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They say that sleep is wasted on the young. But if you ask college students, they’ll tell you they don’t get enough sleep. According to the Journal of American College Health, in a study of 1,845 students, 27% were at risk for sleeping disorders. Sleeping disorders include restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea to name a few.
College students are expected to balance classes, exams, extracurricular activities, work, and a social life. It’s no surprise that proper sleep is the first thing to go! Hence why we have made it easy to stay on track with our sleep tips for college students.
Below we will not only explore 11 key sleep tips for college students but also look the consequences and benefits of proper rest. There is plenty of helpful sleeping advice out there. But honing in on the lifestyle and day to day activities of a college student makes these tips a bit more specific. First some insight into how sleep effects our lives.
Consequences of Sleep Loss
A few nights here, and a couple nights there. Most students live by the notion that losing sleep is, just sleep. However sleep deprivation can have lasting consequences.
- Impaired brain development
Even as a late teen (18) entering college, the brain is still undergoing developmental changes. Specifically the striatum/ basal ganglia is growing. This part of the brain affects risk-taking behavior. If students miss sleep during this time, there will be decreased activity to this part of the brain.
- Poor coordination
Although being alert and coordinated may not seem very important, it can have some of the most lasting consequences. According to a survey of 1,039 students 16% reported to drowsy driving, and 2% got into a car accident. Don’t be that 2% and get some sleep.
- Increased negative feelings
It is clear that not sleeping makes a person grumpy, but a lack of sleep can increase negative feelings overall. This includes feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. At one high school there was a direct correlation between hours of sleep lost and hopeless/ suicidal thoughts. And there was a 58% increase in actual suicidal attempts.
- Memory Issues
Sleep deprivation can worsen cognition, thinking skills, and memory. As a student you are in college to learn. So why limit your abilities by not catching some zzzz’s?
- Physical Issues
Lack of sleep can also worsen your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to colds, flus, and sniffles. Insufficient sleep can also increase weight gain, which is already a problem for college students. Not sleeping can make you feel lethargic and lazy. If you’re sick, overweight, and unenergized, there’s not much you can accomplish.
Clearly, sleep is not ‘just sleep’. Seek help if you suspect you have developed an actual sleeping disorder. Otherwise, say no to that party on a Sunday night and get some serious sleep.
Benefits of Sleep
On the other hand, adequate sleep can have permanent, daily benefits. Even just seven hours can be enough sleep for a college student. Here are the benefits you could reap by just getting a good night’s sleep:
- Better memory
Let’s face it, you’re in college, what more could you need? The information that you learn during the day gets organized and stored within the brain during sleep cycles. The more sleep you get, the better your memory. And the more storage is available because your brain can let go of the irrelevant things. Don’t worry, it will save that physics equation however.
- Improved physical health
Quite the opposite happens when you do get enough sleep. During sleep the body produces cytokines, which boost your immune system. Thus, students with optimal sleep are less likely to get sick. The body also produces leptin, a hormone that curbs appetite. Therefore, you have a lowered risk for obesity as well.
- Improved mood
Who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep? We may not all be morning people, but after a solid sleep cycle, you feel more energized. This prepares students to succeed throughout the day leading to the next benefit.
- Improved grades
It is no surprise that sleep helps you perform better academically, since it boosts your memory, cognition, and thinking skills. One study suggested that one in four students suffered from sleep deprivation. The negative results from deprived sleep even led to course withdrawal. The best thing you can do in college? Get more ZZZZ’s to earn more A’s.
You don’t need to major in rocket science to see that sleep is precious. If you’re ready to get some slumber and hit that pillow, follow these tips and tricks.
11 Sleep Tips for College Students
#1- Set a sleep schedule
Ever heard of a circadian rhythm? It’s the 24-hour process that most biological things have within them, including humans. So with or without a clock your body knows what time it is. To function your best, your body needs regularity. Pick a time to go to bed and stick to it. Experts say varying within an hour’s difference is acceptable. Anything more than an hour and your body could be off schedule for a week. And this is why setting a schedule is our at the top of our list of sleep tips for college students.
#2- Limit caffeine and alcohol
Neither should be taken as a bedtime snack. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and skip the alcohol immediately before bed. Caffeine can impact your body for up to 8 hours after. And although some will claim it has ‘no effect’, it will make your sleep lighter at the least. Alcohol of course has negative, lasting effects on the brain and body in general.
#3- Take naps
Yes, you read that right, you are allowed to take naps. But there is a science to taking them correctly. If you sleep 8 hours, but are awake for 16, getting tired is no surprise. Taking naps can improve brain flow and give you more energy. If you feel you need naps, take them before 4:00 pm. Set a timer so your nap is no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Besides, a little extra sleep can’t hurt.
#4- Create a sleep space
Your bed should be a place that you look forward to. In college it is common for the bed to be a place of study, eating, and relaxing. Try to avoid this. Even in the limited space of a dorm, try to designate different areas. Create a space for sleep, study, and relaxation. Your bed should be only for sleep. If you study on your bed, this could interfere with your sleep. Thoughts of your upcoming exams will linger in your thoughts, since they are associated with your bed. Make sure you check out our #11 sleep tip for college students to make the most out of your sleep space.
#5- Use sleeping tools
Sleeping masks and earplugs are no joke. Use these items to create even more ambiance while you sleep. Drown out excess noise such as a snoring roommate. Block any glimpses of light that may shine off a screen. You can even use a noisemaker or CD to play ocean waves in the background. Then you’ll truly have a relaxing sleep experience!
#6- Don’t use electronics to fall asleep
Today it is all about screen time. Phones, laptops, tablets, and TVs. We use these items in our downtime and fall asleep using them in bed. Another hormone your body produces in order to fall asleep is melatonin. The blue light from screens trick your body into thinking it’s daytime and decreases melatonin. If you’re wondering why you can’t fall asleep while scrolling through Facebook, that’s melatonin.
Even the TV is a killer of sleep. It may seem easy to drift off to sleep with background noise, but the changing commercials actually create interrupted sleep. It is recommended to stop using screens 30 min before bedtime. As tough of a habit as it may be to break, it is a very useful one.
#7- Practice meditation
Once you’ve turned off those screens, now is a perfect time to meditate. Meditation is the mental exercise of concentration. Usually the person concentrates on their breathing or a unique mantra. The goal of meditation is to just ‘be’. You. Yourself. Meditation is relaxing and slows down your metabolic rate. This helps you fall asleep faster.
#8- Exercise during the day
Physical exercise is encouraged, especially if you’re fighting that freshman 15lbs. But exercise during the day, not at night, and not just before bed. The endorphins and adrenaline that your body produces during exercise are again, counterproductive for melatonin. Your nighttime routine should consist of relaxation, not running a marathon.
#9- Try sleeping pills of natural remedies
If a sleep disorder is your nemesis of sleep, consult a doctor. Zaleplon, Zolpidem, Eszopiclone, and Doxepine can improve your sleep/ wake cycle. But always ask a doctor first! Magnesium, Calcium, and Melatonin are natural supplements if your prefer a prescription-free method. Sleeping is an important, medical function of the body, so when you need it, seek help!
#10- Beware of the weekend
Don’t let the weekend ruin your sleep schedule. Don’t turn into a party animal. And don’t forget to relax. It is tempting to sleep until 12:00 and consume alcohol, but at least while school is still in session try to avoid overindulging. Wake up at around the same time. End your day with 30 min of relaxation. It’s good for your body so why not do it everyday?
#11- Your mattress
Our last of the sleep tips for college students has to do with an important factor. During college many first year and even second year students opt for a dorm. This may limit your choice on your sleeping surface. However, if you are in a setting where you get to choose your mattress making sure you find one that is supportive and comfortable can make a big difference. This goes hand in hand with our #4 sleep tips for college students, creating a space dedicated to sleep. Creating a space that is solely for sleep and rest is important. And customizing that space with the necessary mattress, pillows and bedding to be as comfortable is key.
Sleep Tips for Colleges Students Summary
Your sleep is the one chance you have per day to refresh and rejuvenate. Especially as a college student, eager to succeed, your body needs this break. Making small changes that your stick to and make apart of your daily routine will not only benefit you now but your entire life. Even incorporating a few tips will help you find more rest and provide you with a higher quality of sleep. As a college student it is important to live your best life, but sleep your best sleep too.
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