College students notoriously suffer from lack of sleep, which can have a major impact on other areas of life including academic and athletic performance as well as physical and mental health. Sleep is a critical human function that allows our bodies and brains to reset, recharge, and recuperate.
How Much is Enough Sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most college-aged students should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, much less than the average college student tends to get. Sleeping for 7-9 hours each night helps avoid daytime drowsiness, altered mood states, weight gain, poor health, and overall low energy. Not every body is the same, however, and so it’s important not to compare your sleeping habits to others. What might work for you might not work for your roommate, and vice versa.
The Benefits of Sleep
Getting enough sleep helps you achieve your top performance, both athletically and academically, and helps you maintain your emotional health and overall well-being. Here are some benefits of sleeping:
- Sleep allows your brain to process newly learned information, synthesize experiences, and digest knowledge, all of which ultimately improves your memory, understanding, and retention of new information.
- Sleep heals the body and reduces stress, since a good night’s sleep can lower blood pressure and stress hormones in the blood
- A good night’s sleep helps to clear your thoughts, increase your energy and reactions, stabilize your emotions, and improve your mood and self-esteem
How Do I Get More Sleep?
Sometimes just knowing that you need those 7-9 hours per night isn’t enough to actually get there. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, you can try to improve your “sleep hygiene,” or your routine surrounding sleep and bedtime, to ultimately improve your sleeping schedule. Here are some tips and tricks:
- Create an optimal sleep environment — make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, cool (around 65°-70°)
- Set a regular sleep schedule — try to plan for your 7-9 hours by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning (even on the weekends!)
- Limit substances — restrict caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or other stimulant drugs in general, and especially 4-6 hours before bedtime, that can affect your sleep
- Limit screen time — the blue light from your phone and computer screens can disrupt the production of melatonin (the “sleep hormone”) in the brain, so it’s important to avoid screen time 30-60 minutes before bed
- Establish a routine — put together a “relax and wind down” routine that signals to your body it’s time to get ready to sleep. This routine could include a warm shower, drawing, journaling, reading, quiet music, etc.
- Exercise — exercise regularly throughout the week, but try to avoid exercising right before going to bed
- Allow time to digest — try to have your last meal 2-3 hours before going to bed, giving your body a chance to digest your food before going to sleep
- Make a to-do list — if you find your mind racing as you lie in bed about all the tasks you have to do, write them down. This should help you not dwell on worries or frustrations as you try to sleep. You can even keep a specific notebook for this purpose in your bedroom.