Sleep! We need more….

Okay, so I guess it’s not too surprising that in our most recent #WITwants2know question about sleep, 67% of our respondents indicated that on average they don’t get enough sleep each night.  This is fairly consistent with national studies showing that approximately 70% of college students report sleep deprivation; these same studies indicate that sleep deprivation impacts GPA and overall academic success.

What else do we know about college students and sleep?

Adolescents (aka college students) need 8-9 hours of sleep each night… 7 hours is fine, but definitely not 6 or 5 or event less than that. We also know that circadian rhythms, the natural sleep patterns in our bodies, for college students is different than that of young children or older adults.  A typical sleep cycle for young adults is from around 11pm to 8am, which means that on average, college students don’t start to really get tired until around 11pm.

How do you know if you’re not getting enough sleep?

Some of this is based on your alarm.  Waking up without an alarm means your body has the amount of sleep it needs and is ready for the day. If you have trouble waking up when your alarm goes off, you need more sleep.  If you are tired and could totally take a nap around 10 or 11am, you didn’t get enough sleep the night before.  And if you need coffee or caffeine before noon to wake up and focus, you need more sleep.  BTW: I love coffee.

Sleep is vital. There are so many benefits associated with sleep, including:

  • Improved memory and concentration
  • Longer lifespan
  • Increased creativity – yes, I’m looking at you design students.
  • Improved athletic performance – athletes, take note.
  • Improved GPA
  • Decrease in stress
  • Decreased car accidents – in some studies, lack of sleep has been linked to more than 1/3 of car accidents
  • Decrease in depression
  • Healthy weight

There are a couple of myths we should debunk at this point:

  1. You can catch up on sleep. No, you can’t. Your body doesn’t work like that. Your body needs consistently good sleep each night.
  2. The all-nighter is a right of passage in college. No, that’s not what that means. Trust us….plenty of students of all majors who are doing very well never pull all-nighters. We’ll introduce you to them if you’d like.

We’ve compiled a few ideas on how you can get more sleep:

  • Try to stick to the same bedtime each night (remember your natural sleep cycle probably doesn’t begin until around 11pm).
  • Turn off your phone or computer 1 hour before bed (the white light interferes with sleep).
  • Put your text feature to silent at night so the noise doesn’t wake you.
  • Avoid caffeine after noontime.
  • Avoid energy drinks (always!!, seriously, these are just no good to begin with)
  • Keep naps to 20-30 minutes – POWER NAPS are the best –  longer naps interferes with nighttime sleep.
  • Stop snacking an hour or more before bed. Your stomach needs to rest too.
  • Try meditation at bedtime. Start to relax your mind, muscles, and body.

Not all of these – or any of these – may work for you. Maybe a noise machine will help. As long as you’re getting enough sleep, do what works best for you.  And if you’re having difficulty with sleep, be sure to talk with your doctor, or a medical or mental health provider.

Thanks to Maura Mulligan, Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Wellness and Disability Services, for her assistance in providing the information for this blog post.