There are many challenges to regular, rejuvenating sleep in college. Sleeping in a new bed with a roommate in the dorms, or in an apartment is one of the many adjustments required when going off to college. Competing demands of class time, homework, outside school jobs, work-study, and a busy social life sometimes push a good night’s sleep to the bottom of the list. However, irregular and limited sleep times leading to sleep deprivation can have negative repercussions; including memory problems and difficulty with logical reasoning, hormone function imbalance, and decrease in both efficiency and ability to concentrate.
Eight hours of sleep a night is the average need, but individual needs can vary from 5 to as many as 10 hours of sleep to feel rested and refreshed. Most people know how much they need from past experience. Sleep debt accumulates over time – a late Friday night on the town and an all-nighter in a week will make a serious impact. Even though “catching up” on the weekends can feel like it helps repay some of the debt, irregular amounts of sleep can actually interfere with your sleep cycle and lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Helpful Tips For Sleeping
- Establish a regular sleep schedule. As much as possible go to sleep and wake up about the same time every day. Be realistic about class demands – if you are a night owl a 7am class may be next to impossible to make.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can lead to higher percentage of deep sleep and few awakenings in the night. AVOID exercising just before bedtime – your body needs time to cool down and relax.
- Reduce caffeine intake. Don’t consume caffeine within 4 hours of sleep time. Caffeine contributes to insomnia and disrupts sleep.
- Decrease smoking. Large levels of nicotine in the blood can cause agitation and decreased restful sleep.
- Watch the alcohol! Although too much alcohol seems to cause sleepiness, it disrupts the sleep cycle, causing less restorative sleep and leading to feeling less rested the next day or several days after.
- Take a look at your diet. B complex vitamins can enhance restful sleep, as well as reduce fatigue. Eat a balanced diet, mostly fruits and vegetables, some meat and starch. Avoid heavy eating within 3 hours of sleep time.
- If you nap… make sure it is before 3pm in the day and for no more than 20-30 minutes to avoid disruption of sleep at night.
- Create a dark, quiet comfortable and cool sleep space. This may require investment in a small fan for white noise, ear phones or buds. Work out a compromise with your dorm-mate to have a quiet, lights out time.
- Set up a bedtime routine that is restful. Not everyone needs this, but you know who you are. Some experts recommend reading, listening to soothing music, or deep breathing exercises
- Make sleep a priority.