What college students need to know about sleep

There is no denying that one of the biggest issues college students face is not getting enough sleep. What they may not know is how much it negatively impacts not just their bodies but also their brains. And as much as college students don’t mind procrastinating and pulling all-nighters, for someone that has been there and done that I can assure you it really is not the best way to go.

Sleep deprivation has risky effects college students need to be aware of. (Credit: Quick Meme)

Sleep deprivation has risky effects college students need to be aware of. (Credit: Quick Meme)

Now let’s get down to business and discuss the effects of sleep deprivation and ways to help prevent it – all I ask is that you please try not to use this article as a means to help you fall asleep.

How your college routine affects you

When beginning your college career, you soon realize how different it is from your years in high school. You now have a more randomized schedule; you may even be involved in more extracurricular activities, or possibly even have a job. Living in a dorm is especially different too because it seems like there are always people around.

As described in HuffPost College’s “Colleges Open Their Eyes: ZZZs Are Key To GPA,” by Justin Pope on August 30, 2012, Sara Campbell, a junior at the University of Arizona, notes how “residence hall life at UA makes it hard even for students trying to sleep – constant late-night chattering, visitors coming and going, early morning cleaning crews running their vacuums.” As many other college students can agree, Campbell couldn’t believe the number of girls in her dorm that regularly pulled all-nighters for papers and exams. Dealing with a roommate was most challenging for her too. Now they’ve opted to move off-campus and have separate bedrooms, which will help ease the tension.

Health risks of sleep deprivation

If you happen to be anything like me, you realize that a lack of sleep can make you crabby and groggy the following day. However, that’s not even the worst that you can experience due to lack of sleep. College students can develop sleep disorders as well as chronic sleep loss. In “10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss,” by Camille Peri at WedMD, you can read about potentially serious risks you face when you don’t sleep enough:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

Learn good sleeping habits

If you’re still following along, it means I didn’t scare you off in that last section – that’s good news! And speaking of good news, I have some to share. There is hope that you can stave off sleep deprivation. According to The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep, written by Lawrence Epstein, MD and Steven Mardon, 2007, there are several approaches to help you relax as your bedtime approaches, and to also “maintain a comfortable sleep environment, and to encourage a healthful balance of nutrition and exercise. Their recommendations include:

  • Maintaining a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • Making your bedroom a comfortable sleep environment
  • Establishing a calming pre-sleep routine
  • Going to sleep when you’re truly tired
  • Not watching the clock at night
  • Using light to your advantage by exposing yourself to light during the day and limiting light exposure in the evening
  • Not napping too close to your regular bedtime
  • Eating and drinking enough – but not too much or too soon before bedtime
  • Exercising regularly – but not too soon before bedtime”

Settling down in a regular pattern is never an easy feat and don’t worry if it doesn’t happen overnight. Creating good habits takes time so just be patient. You can do it!

How does a lack of sleep affect you? What have you done to fix it that you would suggest to others? Let us know in the comments!

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