College campuses are one of our most sleep-deprived cultures, reporting twice as many sleep difficulties as the general population. This is important, because sleep deprivation in students has been linked to poorer test performance and lower GPAs. Sleep affects concentration, memory and the ability to learn. Your college years are an ideal time to understand and improve your sleep patterns. So get your snoozing back on track!
Signs that you may not be getting enough sleep
In our fast paced world, some of us view the act of functioning on less sleep as a kind of badge of honor. However, according to Dr. Philip Gehrman, “Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation -- they’ve gotten used to it. But if you look at how they actually do on tests of mental alertness and performance, they continue to go downhill. So there’s a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how impaired we are.”
Causes of sleep problems
Stress has been cited as the number one cause of short-term sleep difficulties. Other triggers include:
- School- or work-related pressures
- Relational or family problems
- Serious illness or death in the family
- Evening consumption of alcohol and/or caffeine
- Exercise or mentally intense activities before bed
- Shift work and traveling which disrupts normal body rhythms
- Intrusive environments: temperature, light, noise
- Nonstop lifestyle with low priority on rest or sleep
You should get adequate sleep because
- You will be able to handle stress more effectively
- You’ll be able to think, concentrate, and remember more clearly
- You can help protect yourself from some medical problems
- Your mental health will improve
- Your body will repair itself more effectively
- Your immune system will be strengthened
- You will be more alert, coordinated, and energetic
- Your academic performance will improve
Tips for better sleep
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule. Go to bed and get up at approximately the same times each day … even on weekends!
- Manage your stress and anxiety. Don’t let your worries interfere with your sleep.
- Minimize caffeine intake, and don’t consume caffeine four to six hours before bed.
- Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awaken during the night.
- Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep.
- Minimize fluid intake near bedtime to avoid frequent bathroom trips during the night.
- Get regular exercise, but complete it more than two hours before bedtime.
- Minimize noise, light and excessive hot or cold temperatures where you sleep.
- Power nap if needed, but nap early in the afternoon and for 30 minutes or less.
- Utilize relaxation techniques to fall asleep or to return to sleep if you wake in the middle of the night.
- Create a soothing bedtime ritual, such as a warm bath, light reading, or soft music.
- Find time each day to spend in sunlight. Time spent outside during the day helps to preserve your body’s regular sleep and wake cycles.
- Set aside your cell phone and other electronics. Waking in the night to check messages or spend time online wakes up your brain. The light makes it harder for you to return to sleep.
- Utilize the 20-minute rule: If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and engage in some soothing activity. Lying in bed watching the clock will only result in more frustration!