If you’re a college student who makes a point of getting a solid eight hours of sleep each and every night, congratulations. You happen to be a member of a very small – but well-rested – minority.
Between late-night cram sessions, closing shifts at your part-time job, a busy social life, and the roof-rattling snores of your asthmatic roommate, sleep can be very hard to come by in college. According to experts at the University of Michigan, the average college student pulls in only about six hours of sleep each night – far less than the eight to ten hours recommended for optimal health.
Late nights and early classes may be a rite of passage for many college students, but scientists warn that these poor sleep habits can catch up with you over time, ultimately having a negative impact on health, performance, and overall well-being. A recent study conducted by scientists at Delta State University found that sleep-deprived college students fared worse on common tasks such as academic tests and operating a motor vehicle. Other recent research has linked sleep deprivation to depression, mood disorders, and heart problems.
Balancing Sleep and a Busy Schedule
Everyone knows that extra sleep is good for you, but how can college students find time in their activity-packed lives to get in enough shut-eye? Experts at universities across the country have been focusing on this question, and they’ve come up with a number of simple tips and tricks geared specifically to help busy students get more – and better – rest.
• Resist the urge to sleep in on weekends. It may feel great to loll about in bed when you have a day off, but scientists say that sleeping late on the weekends is not the best way to optimize your sleep schedule. Instead, pick a consistent bedtime and wake-up time – and try to stick to them consistently. Your body will quickly get accustomed to the pattern.
• When you’re running on fumes, try to take catnaps. In college, late nights are sometimes unavoidable. Experts say that if you’re really sleep-deprived, you can avoid crashing and burning by slotting in several short, ten-to-fifteen minute rest periods throughout the day.
• Set aside time to wind down before bed. If you have trouble sticking to a regular bedtime, try to ease into it by beginning to relax an hour or so before you hit the sack. Avoid exercising, eating, or watching television right before bed. A warm bath, meditation, and deep breathing can help you get ready to sleep.
• If you’re not sleepy, get up. If you find yourself suffering from a bout of insomnia, don’t lie in bed staring at the ceiling all night. Instead, get up and engage in a productive activity for a while. When you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed and try again.
Are you a poster child for bad sleep habits? What’s your favorite trick for getting by on just a few hours of shut-eye? Tell us all of your sleepy secrets in the comments.
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