College students are infamous for their willing embrace of sleep deprivation. For many, a chronic lack of sleep is part and parcel of the college experience.
However, buying into this terrible concept can be detrimental to your mind, body, and even your academic career. Here are a few reasons to prioritize sleep as a student as well as some suggestions for how to do so.
Why Sleep Is Especially Important for Students
Before digging into ways to improve your sleep, it’s important to put the matter into perspective. This isn’t just a nice self-care activity that can help you feel a little better when you sit down for your next class. Sleep is an essential part of academic success for multiple reasons.
Obviously, sleep gives you an energy boost. But apart from doing something that is typically associated with a cup of coffee, there are many other deeply important benefits that come from sleep.
For instance, getting proper sleep:
- Boosts creativity;
- Enhances mental clarity;
- Prevents illness;
- Avoids fatigue;
- Improves memory;
- Increases overall mood.
For obvious reasons, many of these factors can have a huge impact on your academic performance. The ability to focus in class, remember what you’ve learned, and stay positive as you work your way through each semester are important — as is the sleep that makes these things possible.
On the flip side, if you don’t take your sleep seriously, it can lead to a slew of different side effects, consequences, and even health concerns. A lack of sleep can make you feel sick, stressed, and depressed. It can also lead to weight gain and put you and others in physical danger when you’re driving to and from class.
As far as your academic performance goes, a tired brain can make it difficult to participate in athletic sports and other activities that require a high level of coordination. Studies have also directly shown a correlation between sleep deprivation and a lower GPA. In other words, students who live in a state of chronic under-rest are less likely to graduate.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep While You’re in College
Once you have the right perspective on the value of sleep, it’s time to do something about it. Keep in mind that these are all general suggestions. They aren’t meant to disrupt your schedule in stressful ways or make you invest excessive amounts of energy and time into fixing your sleep schedule.
On the contrary, these are suggestions that you should take and adapt to your own unique situation in order to benefit from them as much as possible.
Understand How Much Sleep You Need
It’s difficult to get enough sleep if you don’t even know what a proper amount of sleep is. Specifically, a fully-grown adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Now, before you roll your eyes at the impossibility of getting that quantity of sleep with a full class schedule, seriously think about it. Is there any way that you can adjust your lifestyle in order to increase the length of time that you have to sleep each day?
Remember, your diploma and even your future career are on the line here. Even if you can’t get seven hours each night, don’t use that as an excuse not to try. Always do your best to get the most sleep you possibly can, even in the midst of your hectic, ever-changing college schedule.
Set Up a Sleep Routine
Sleep routines are powerful tools. They can slow down your thought processes and help you enter into a deep and restful state of slumber. You can establish a good sleep routine by:
- Setting a window of time each night and morning that you try to go to sleep and wake up, respectively.
- Finding relaxing activities like taking a bath or reading a book that you can do before bed.
- Only using your bed for sleeping — more on that further down.
- Exercising earlier in the day on a consistent basis.
- Avoiding sleep disruptors too close to bed — again, more on that further down.
The goal here should be to get into a sleep pattern that lines up as much as possible with your circadian rhythm. For adults, this typically involves getting drowsy before midnight and being the most tired between 2 and 4 in the morning.
Start a Sleep Journal
Another way to encourage better sleep habits is to keep a sleep diary. By journaling your sleep journey, you can identify if you’re getting enough sleep each night. You can also dissect the quality of your sleep. If you find that you’re getting plenty of sleep, but it’s broken up by difficulty falling asleep or waking up through the night, writing out your thoughts can help you identify ways to address the issue.
Along with journaling, if you’re having trouble sleeping, consider using expressive writing to help break out of the sleep deprivation cycle. This involves writing down your thoughts on a piece of paper and then destroying it right away, and can be particularly helpful if you’re also struggling with things like anxiety and depression. This process has been shown to interrupt a busy brain and help restore a sense of calm. It also gives your neurological pathways a chance to properly process things like depression and pain in a more effective and healthier manner.
Avoid Sleep Destroyers Near Bed Time
There are many things that you should actively avoid in the hours before you go to bed. These include:
- Blue light from your phone and other screens;
- Coffee and other caffeinated substances;
- Alcohol and nicotine;
- Eating big meals.
In addition, do your best to avoid using your sleeping space for other things. For instance, it’s recommended that you don’t study or do homework from your bed, as this associates your resting area with an awake, brain-heavy activity.
Create the Perfect Sleeping Environment
Finally, strive to maintain the perfect sleeping environment. You can do this by:
- Setting up a diffuser with essential oils.
- Trying to keep your room temperature on the cooler side.
- Hanging black-out curtains to keep the room dark while you sleep.
While some of these are more challenging than others depending on your dorm or housing situation, it’s worth trying to do as many of them as possible.
Sleeping Through College
Study after study shows that sleep is a critical component of a successful academic career. As such, it should be something that you take seriously.
Don’t buy into the “sleep deprivation is a part of the college experience” hype. Do your best to create a conducive sleep regimen that enables you to tap into the powerful benefits of sleep from the moment you start as a freshman until you get your diploma.
Tips for Improving Mental Health
There is a lot of overlap between anxiety and insomnia in terms of strategies and tips for alleviating your suffering.
- Learn and practice meditation; you can use apps like Calm and Headspace to guide you.
- Avoid caffeine and sugary foods and drinks.
- Avoid drinking and smoking
- Try aromatherapy with lavender oil, which may contain anxiety-reducing properties.
- Eat well and drink enough water.
- Exercise regularly, but if you have insomnia, make sure it’s early in the day.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you learn to question and challenge your negative thought patterns that lead to anxiety
To get up-to-date help with anxiety and insomnia, go to https://www.onlinepsychologydegrees.com/combating-anxiety-and-insomnia/.
Improve Your Sleep. Improve Your Life.