Alaska Sleep Education Center

4 Reasons College Students Should Improve Their Sleep Habits

Posted by Harry Yuan, D.O. on Jan 4, 2021 7:20:52 AM

Young man falls asleep while studying.

The college experience differs significantly when compared to high school life. One of the most significant differences between college and high school life is the amount of free time a student has and the structure of their schedules.  

College experiences provide young adults a structured environment where they can gain knowledge, skills and independence, which they will need in employment. This is the reason why college life is much more stressful compared to high school life.  

If you're already in college, indeed, you're likely already feeling a bit stressed about balancing academics, extra-curricular school activities, and your social life. Some programs like health care, engineering, sciences, and social sciences can have a hectic schedule and loads of projects for every class. Despite everything that's going on in your life, you shouldn't forget to rest. Even when you have a busy lifestyle, it's still important to take some time to recuperate and rest.  

In this article, you will learn how to determine if you're sleep-deprived and the importance of having a good night's rest.

Signs of Sleep Deprivation and Fatigue in College Students 

If you always feel tired in the morning or wake up late for your class, you might be sleep-deprived. Still unsure if you have poor sleeping patterns? Below are some vital signs you should watch out for:  

  • It takes longer than an hour for you to fall asleep on most nights of the week. 
  • The sound of your alarm can't wake you up in the morning 
  • You're constantly worrying about your sleep pattern 
  • You need to take sleeping pills or drink alcohol to induce sleep 
  • You frequently take daytime naps to compensate for lack of nighttime sleep 
  • You always feel exhausted 
  • You still feel drowsy in the morning, even when you already drank coffee 

If you experienced everything that is listed above, there is a high chance that you're sleep-deprived and is fatigued. Your body is telling you that it needs more rest.  

Causes of Sleep Problems in College Students 

There are many common reasons for sleep problems in college students. Stress, anxiety, altered sleep cycles, and medication can all contribute to sleep problems. You must be aware of the causes of sleep problems so you can address them and start improving your sleeping habits.  

Here are the two major causes of sleep problems in college students:  

  • Stress and Anxiety 

Stress and anxiety are two prevalent contributing factors to interrupted sleep. College students are often engaged in a large amount of mental activity. As such, there is a great deal of pressure placed on college students to perform well academically, meet strict deadlines, and maintain a high grade point average. All of this can lead to stress and anxiety. 

Stress and anxiety can lead to overthinking. You're always worried about your school, schedules, projects and maybe some issues in your personal life. This will prevent you from getting a good night's rest.  

  • Poor Lifestyle 

Not taking care of your body is another cause for sleep deprivation in college life. It's essential to get proper amounts of sleep each night, whether you are studying or not. Doing so will keep your body and mind healthy.  

Sometimes, college students are tempted to do drugs. Many drugs cause sleep problems—consumption of illegal drugs, alcohol, and sleeping pills can also disrupt sleep.

Other poor lifestyle habits can also lead to having low sleep quality. These habits include cigarette smoking, overeating junk food, skipping breakfast, and not drinking enough water. If these poor sleep hygiene habits are discovered early, students can avoid these adverse effects of insomnia. Also, getting proper amounts of sleep is essential to prevent physical ailments later on in life. 

Reasons Why Sleep is Important for College Students 

Experiencing a lack of sleep can dramatically affect your mental and physical health, negatively impacting your productivity and quality of your life. This is why it's essential to understand the importance of having good sleeping habits while still in college. Here are four primary reasons why you should make good sleep quality a priority:  

  • It Ensures Proper Brain Function 

Sleep is a natural and healthy human function that allows your body to recuperate from the day's activities. During sleep, essential pathways form in your brain that helps you recall new information, remember things you've learned, and do tasks that require concentration. However, if sleep is interrupted too long, your mind can become tired, and your cognitive functions can deteriorate. 

When you don't have good quality sleep, you could fail your classes. You can't think straight during exams. You might be embarrassed when you can't answer your teacher's questions in a graded recitation, even if you studied before the class. When your brain can't function properly because of the lack of sleep, you will experience mental blocks, no matter how long or hard you study for.  

  • It Maintains Good Physical Health 

A good night's sleep and an optimal amount of physical activity go hand in hand. During sleep, your body undergoes significant repair processes that help heal previously damaged tissues, cure infections, and overcome everyday life stresses. Proper amounts of healthy sleep are undeniably linked to a higher quality of life, both physically and mentally, a stronger immune system, and a longer lifespan.  

More specifically, sleep and physical health may be linked to an improved immune system, a lower risk of colds and flu, improved cognitive function, and proper metabolism. There are also certain medical conditions that have been linked to poor sleeping habits like:  

  • Heart failure 
  • Heart diseases 
  • Obesity 
  • Diabetes 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Stroke 

Because of the fast-paced lifestyle young adults live today, you can easily develop these diseases even when you're still in your 20s.  

Good sleep quality is also connected to having a good immune system. When you sleep, your immune system produces infection-fighting substances and antibodies. These antibodies are critical to fighting off infection, bacteria, and viruses. Certain substances help you sleep, giving your immune system more efficiency when fighting illnesses.  

Sleep deprivation is another risk factor for gaining weight and also obesity. Sleep affects two crucial hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness. When you don't have enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin, which is the hormone responsible for telling your brain that you're already full. It also increases the amount of ghrelin in the brain, which is the hormone responsible for hunger feelings. This will lead to an increase in snacking and cravings for fatty and Its hard to retain information when the brain isnt rested.sugary foods.  

  • It Helps Improve Your Mood and Maintain Good Mental Health 

 A lot of people do not realize the link between lack of sleep and mental health problems. If you don’t get enough sleep, then there are certain chances that you might become more irritable and unstable. On the other hand, when you get enough sleep, you feel refreshed and energetic. 

People who think poorly due to lack of sleep or rest often make poor decisions resulting in wrong practices and bad habits. A situation like this lack of sleep can cause mental disorders, which may result in health problems like depression and anxiety.  

Lack of sleep can also affect your academic performance or performance at work. Lack of intellectual performance might result in the loss of a job, academic failure, or the inability to cope with various situations. When this happens, depression will most likely develop. There have been studies that reveal most patients with depression complain about their sleep quality.  

Mood and mental health are essential to cope with the pressures of college life. If you develop depression, you will tend to miss classes and alienate yourself from your peers. The worst thing that could happen is when depression leads to suicide. A recent study revealed that the second most common cause of death among college students is suicide.   

  • It Increases Your Productivity and Improves Performance 

A lack of sleep can cause you to feel drowsy during the day and lose focus on your classes. In addition to detrimental effects on your physical health, a lack of sleep can lead to major mistakes during work that will ultimately let you fail your classes.  

So, sleeping better will not only make you stay alert but you will also have the energy to do a lot more things. You can accomplish your class requirements promptly, and you will be able to have the time to study for your exams.  

Some Tips on How to Improve Sleep 

Proper time management and a healthy lifestyle are essential to get good quality sleep. Even though you're working on many things, making rest and sleep, a priority is still vital to keep you on top of your game. To help you get the sleep you need, you can follow these simple tips: 

  • Acknowledge the Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation 

If you feel like you are always tired and have a hard time staying awake in the morning, you should already be alarmed. When you understand that you lack sleep, you can encourage yourself to get the rest you need to function correctly.  

  • Follow a Regular Sleeping Schedule 

Having a regular sleeping schedule is essential, so your body can recuperate adequately. Following a program is also essential so your body can have a consistent sleeping pattern. You can also work on proper scheduling of tasks, classes and appointments.  

  • Make Sure You Have a Good Sleeping Environment 

A good sleeping environment is vital to a comfortable and peaceful sleep. Ensure that your room temperature is comfortable enough that it won't interrupt your sleep in the middle of the night. You might be waking up in the middle of the night when it becomes too cold or too warm.  

Also, make sure that you avoid using electronics when going to bed. Turn off all electronic devices so you can sleep with a calm mind. However, suppose you're much more comfortable to hear white noises or nature noises while you sleep. In that case, you can set your player on a very minimal volume that won't disrupt your sleep.  

  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle 

Doing regular exercise and eating the right foods define a healthy lifestyle. When you do regular exercise, you get an excellent physical condition and you also sleep better—doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise seven hours before bed time will help you get good quality rest.  

Aside from that, avoiding unhealthy foods is vital to support a good sleeping pattern. Eating too many sugars or drinking too much caffeine or alcohol will make it harder to sleep. Cut back on snacking after dinner time and drink warm milk an hour before going to bed.  

  • Arrange Everything You Need for Tomorrow Before Going to Bed 

It's normal for college students to think about a lot of things before going to bed. Whether it's an exam or a presentation, make sure you prepare and arrange everything you need long before you go to bed. This will give you peace of mind and will help you relax so you can sleep.  

  • Learn Proper Planning and Time Management 

Proper planning and time management is essential so you can have time to rest and sleep. It's best to follow a schedule for everything. You should schedule when you should study for exams and prepare for the requirements for school. When you schedule everything accordingly, you won't only have time to relax—you can do other things like hanging out with friends or find something you can do as a hobby.  


If you're wondering why you're tired all the time, there is a considerable chance that you're sleep-deprived. The results of insufficient sleep and the effects on physical health and sleep quality are immediate and severe. Not only does sleep deprivation lead to increased risk of illness, but the symptoms are just as severe. Inadequate sleep can make it difficult to concentrate, remember things, and function normally.  

Lack of sleep can also lower your immune response and weaken your ability to fight off disease. It can contribute to weight gain, which is another common problem among college students. Lack of sleep can affect your emotions and moods, which are essential aspects of your well-being that we all take for granted. 

Sleep is needed for several reasons including the normal consolidation of information into long-term memory, the restoration of brain cells that were damaged during the day, and the production of hormones such as serotonin that affect mood and energy levels.

At the Alaska Sleep Clinic we diagnose and treat thousands of cases of sleep apnea every year. Because treatment for sleep apnea through continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapyor other alternative treatments is so effective, there's no reason to have to live with sleep apnea or any of its debilitating symptoms. For a free 10 minute phone consultation with a sleep expert click the link below and be on your way to getting quality sleep every night so you feel energized everyday.


Topics: sleep habits, college, students

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