Tired of School? Tips on getting better sleep.
Staying up until 4 a.m. to finish a project, getting a few hours’ sleep, and then heading to a 9 a.m. class may strike you as a norm at college. But shortchanging yourself on sleep, regardless of the reason, can lead to sleep deprivation — and some serious health consequences.
Sleep Deprivation: Memory Issues
"Good sleep is important for several things," says James Knepler, MD, associate professor and assistant director of the University of Cincinnati Comprehensive Sleep Center. For instance, good sleep can boost your cognition, or thinking skills, and memory — and bad or insufficient sleep can worsen them.
"Half the reason you're at college really is to learn," says Dr. Knepler, and not getting enough sleep can keep college students from their goals of succeeding in school.
So if it seems worth it to sacrifice a night of shuteye to squeeze in your studies, think again. Staying up all night to cram for a test may be doing more harm than good: The effects of sleep deprivation may offset the benefits of all that extra studying into the wee hours of the morning.
Sleep Deprivation: Physical Issues
A lack of sleep can have physical consequences as well. "Poor sleep has been associated with weight gain, which can be a problem in college students anyway," says Knepler, referring to the all-too common "freshman 15."
Not enough sleep can make you sick, leading to more colds, flu, coughs, and sniffles. "Decreased sleep can decrease your immune system," he adds. "Certainly it's a stress just like any other stress to your immune system."
Most college students need at least seven hours of sleep each night, says Knepler, but that amount can be adjusted based on how alert a student feels after a particular number of hours of sleep.
Sleep Deprivation: 10 Tips for Better Sleep
Making the effort to get enough sleep every night will help you keep up your grades, feel better, and have more energy for the things you really want to do.
Here are 10 tips to try to help you get into the right frame of mind for sleep:
- Avoid caffeine at night, and limit it during the day.
- Skip alcohol before bed.
- Create a sleep schedule, and stick to it.
- Don't sleep in on weekends or days when you have late class; wake up close to the same time every day.
- Put books and homework away at least 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
- Don't study or work on your computer in bed.
- Exercise earlier in the day, never just before bed.
- Don't watch TV just before bed.
- Sleep with earplugs and use an eye pillow to drown out any bright lights and the noise of loud roommates or dorm mates.
- Turn out the lights when it's time to go to bed; a bright room will keep you awake.
Establishing healthy sleep habits in college will do wonders for your long-term health.