It's easy to underestimate the importance of sleep, especially as a college student. Between varying class times, demanding work schedules, and active social lives, it's clear that college students are at a high risk for developing poor sleep habits. Sleep is not a passive activity to fill inactive time in the day; sleep is a dynamic process that is essential for cognitive and motor function. Sleep restores our energy, strengthens our immune system, and increases mood and memory capacity. A balance of sleep QUALITY, sleep QUANTITY, and sleep REGULARITY are vital for your overall wellness.
Although the general recommendation is 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you may find that you function better with a bit more or a bit less than that. Consistency in your sleep routine is just as important as how many hours of sleep you get. Research has shown that positive sleep habits are linked to higher GPAs; qualities like recall, concentration, and alertness are all maximized with sleep wellness.
Because of the impact on our immune system function, hormone regulation, and overall brain function, unhealthy sleep habits can harm us in major ways. Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a number of serious health consequences, including higher risks of:
- Heart disease
In addition, excessive sleepiness is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents due to the effect on attention span, reaction times, and ability to focus. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Make sure you're making smart choices when on the road.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule - even on weekends!
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, interruption-free environment.
- Evaluate your mattress - is it over 10 years old? Time to replace it! Try out different types of mattresses at the store to find the best one for you.
- Don't do homework and studying while on your bed. If you do, it can cause an association between your bed and anxiety-provoking work, making your bed an unrestful place.
- Establish a routine for winding down at the end of each day. Consider reading a book or listening to soothing music. Limit the screen time!
- Finish eating about 2-3 hours before bed; food in your stomach can disturb your sleep.
- Exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime).
- Do not consume caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine close to bedtime, as each of these can disturb your sleep.
- If you nap, keep them under an hour. Sleeping too much during the day can make it hard to fall asleep at night.
- Don't glorify or normalize sleep deprivation. By treating all-nighters as normal, we make this unhealthy behavior more acceptable. Let's change this idea!
- Try a wellness app like Sleepbot or Sleep Genius.
While all of us experience sleep issues from time to time, chronic sleep problems are nothing to brush off. Below are some common sleep disorders.
- Insomnia: difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Narcolepsy: overwhelming tiredness; in severe cases, accompanied by uncontrollable sleep attacks
- Sleep Apnea: temporary pause in breathing during sleep
- Restless Legs Syndrome: overwhelming urge to move your legs
If you experience any persistent sleep issues that impede your ability to get a full night's sleep or stay awake during the day, consider visiting a health care provider to receive help.