A recent study by The National Sleep Foundation concluded that college aged students (18-25 years old) need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Studies also show that while some college students get plenty of good sleep, most fall about one to two hours short every night. That might not seem like a big deal but over the course of a week, a month, or a semester, it adds up.
It’s easy to see why. The college years are loaded with non-sleep activities such as academics, long hours at work so you can pay for college, and a healthy amount of socializing. Often, a good night’s sleep is just plain unattainable.
Walk around any college campus and you can see students catching up- or napping up- on the missing one to two hours of sleep in a variety of places. The college library is always a good place to observe many a student catching a few winks. Quiet spots can be found all over the library and even if you are not sleep deprived it is often hard to stay awake in such a peaceful setting. You might also see students snoozing away in a quiet corner of the recreation center, the dining hall, or any other hidden spot on campus.
Of course, many students wind up catching their zzzs in the college classroom. More often than not, you cannot blame them as the teacher is just plain boring. He or she drones on about European History, Organic Chemistry, or whatever else the average student doesn’t care much about, and dozing off can’t be avoided. Like the library, it’s tough for anyone to stay awake during those circumstances. Other times a long in-class movie- or even a short movie- in a dark classroom will do the trick. Even if a student has every intention to watch the video, the combination of dialogue and a dark room changes the setting from attentive to siesta.
Ask any student, however, and they will tell you that they would prefer to do their sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and not an uncomfortable college desk. So, what’s preventing everyone from more bed sleeping and less campus catnaps? A major culprit would be the assortment of items college students typically consume. Foods many students consume regularly can interfere with the pleasant rhythms of a good night’s sleep. Aside from sugar and grease, this would include the consumption of caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol. These three beverages are practically “food groups” during the college years. They are hard to avoid. Other stimulants such as “speed,” be it prescription, over the counter, and/or from your local black-market dealer, contribute mightily to nighttime sleep deprivation as well. That’s almost a no-brainer. Even someone totally sleep deprived can tell you that.
Technology also plays a big part in collegiate insomnia. Any type of technology use within the hour before bedtime greatly reduces the chances of a restful night sleep. Sorry to say everyone, but this includes texting, sexting, and video games. Snapchat and Instagram are also no-nos. So is cramming to finish a paper. That is not good either so don’t cram. Get that paper done in a timely manner. Your professors can tell. Trust me.
The problems associated with sleep deprivation include an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Sadly, these issues are already all too common on campus. Physical health issues can also arise from sleep deprivation making you more prone to get sick. You can become irritated more easily and attentive listening becomes troublesome. Another popular college activity is impacted too. Less sleep impacts sexual activity, leading to not only less drive, but less enjoyment.
So, what’s a college student to do? Achieving the recommended daily dose of sleep is certainly something easier said than done. Aside from cutting back on Red Bull and Budweiser, sleep researchers will tell you to put your technology away before bedtime. Creating a sleep conducive environment can also help. Keep your room dark, comfortable and cool. Try- as best you can, to create a regular sleep routine. Avoid going to sleep too late and stay away from rich foods before bedtime. For those still smoking cigarettes, know that they, and all tobacco products, are stimulants and will force your body to stay awake rather than go to sleep. Scientists also recommend using your bed for sleep and sex only and avoid using as a substitute for furniture. If you live in a dorm and your bed is really your only furniture, I don’t know what to tell you. Good luck with that.
I can tell you that there is little doubt that a good night sleep has a positive relationship with good health. There is not much more important than that. Except, perhaps that students that get six hours or less of sleep a night have a lower G.P.A. than those who get eight or more hours. So, if you are having a hard time keeping up with your coursework, get more sleep out of the classroom than in it.