College is a time for making new friends, having new experiences, and being on your own for what is likely the first time. Sleep can sometimes be an afterthought. But in order to perform your best – academically, physically, and even socially - you must get enough sleep. Here’s some information on the importance of sleep for college students, the drawbacks of sleep deprivation in college students, and tips for how you can make sure you get enough sleep!
The effects of sleep deprivation in College Students
We’ve all experienced it – sitting in a boring lecture or meeting and struggling to stay awake. Nodding off in class is one (potentially embarrassing!) side effect of sleep deprivation in college students, but there’s more to it than just that. Lack of sleeps affects your cognitive functions – it leads to decreased memory, inability to focus, lack of attention, and slower processing ability. These will all have negative impacts on your grades.
Sleep deprivation can also affect college students’ social lives, which can seem just as important as academics when you are in college! Lack of sleep can cause irritability, anger, aggression, and even depression and anxiety. This can make it harder to make new friends and do social activities with them.
A lack of adequate sleep can also make you sick, which no college student has time for! Sleep deprivation decreases your immune system’s ability to fight off infection and can also lessen the effectiveness of preventative measures like the flu vaccine!
With all these negative effects of sleep deprivation in college students, the importance of sleep for college students should be clear. But how much sleep is enough?
How much sleep do College Students need?
How much sleep you need depends on your age. Most experts say college students need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. But it’s not just the quantity – it’s the quality that is most important! It’s important for this to be uninterrupted sleep – the kind that lets you get into the non-REM part of your sleep cycle. This deep sleep phase of our sleep cycles is when our physical recovery occurs, and when our learning and emotions are processed. All really important things for college students! Some studies even show that shorter amounts of uninterrupted sleep are more beneficial to your health than longer periods of poor-quality sleep. Generally, experts agree that aiming for 7 hours of good quality sleep per night would be enough to avoid sleep deprivation in college students.
Tips for getting enough sleep in College
So, how can you ensure that you are getting enough sleep in college? Here are some simple things you can do:
- Invest in earplugs and a sleep mask! This one is especially important if you are living in a dorm. Roommates can be noisy, as can people in other rooms and the hallways. Remember that uninterrupted sleep is vital, so making sure that a roommate won’t disrupt your sleep by noisily coming home or turning on the lights will help. You can even get something like this, which combines a sleep mask and earplugs with Bluetooth so that you can play soothing music or white noise.
- Create a nighttime routine. Routines help our bodies prepare for sleep, and can help you fall asleep faster. Avoid electronics right before bed, as the blue light they emit can suppress the production of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. Create a routine that promotes sleep – maybe using a soothing scented lotion, listening to soft music, or reading before bed. Once your body associates these activities with sleep, it will start to wind down on its own and make you fall asleep more quickly.
- Set a schedule. Schedule in your sleep just as you would your studying and socializing. Which days do you have early classes? Make sure to schedule an earlier night’s sleep the day before. Which nights are the nights that people typically go out on your campus? Schedule a later wake-up and maybe some naps the next day. Head over to this post for tips on time management skills for college students.
- Grab naps when you can. If you are just feeling a little tired and need a boost, taking a short 20-minute power nap can help increase your energy levels for a few hours. Longer than 20 minutes will allow your body to enter deep sleep, which can be hard to wake from and can leave you feeling groggy for a few hours after you wake. However, if you are experiencing the effects of sleep deprivation, then your body will need the longer nap. Scheduling time for a 1-2 hour long nap midday can be very beneficial.
Sleep deprivation in college students is a real problem. But by being mindful of the importance of sleep for college students, and making a few simple changes to your day, you can make sure you are well-rested, healthy, and successful!