The chances that you’ll experience sleep deprivation in college is similar to the chances you’ll get wet if you step into the rain.
Whether you lose sleep by studying late or partying nightly, there’s no question that there tends to be a lack of sleep in college student life. While sleep deprivation is, partially, a part of college student life, it can lead to serious health and academic issues. At first, with new found freedom, students tend to spend the first few weeks of college up all night, but once the novelty wears off and the reality of college life sets in, it’s time to get serious about a good night’s sleep.
When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it simply goes into auto-pilot mode and you can move enough to function, but nothing sinks in. You become a zombie-like version of yourself wandering around campus and sitting (or sleeping) through class and remembering only tidbits of your responsibilities and daily activities.
Sleep deprivation among college students doesn’t have to be the norm and it is up to the college student to take the necessary steps to get more sleep.
Be consistent. It might sound a little elementary, but give yourself a consistent bedtime. While the weekends might be free-reign, at least keep weeknight sleep consistent. If you get 7 hours of sleep on Monday, but 2 on Tuesday and 4 on Wednesday, you’re doing your body more harm than good. Wide variations in sleep patterns can wreak havoc on your body and your mind. You need to give yourself a decent and consistent amount of sleep by sticking to a bedtime that allows at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
Embrace Power Naps. One of the best things about college is the abundance of student lounge space. Most colleges have at least one or two student lounge areas right on campus (not to mention the wonderfully quiet library). Embrace 20-minute power naps in between classes. Set your phone alarm, sit down, and close your eyes. This small amount of rest will do wonders for the rest of your day.
Keep Daylight During the Day and Darkness at Night. Any neonatal nurse will tell you that when babies are first born, they don’t know the difference between night and day. They must learn that when it’s light outside, you stay away and when it’s dark outside, it’s time to sleep. This is how our mind works for the rest of our lives. So, during the day, embrace the light, take off the sunglasses, walk outside, keep the windows open. Then, when the sun goes down, use lamps instead of full indoor lighting, turn off the computers and other lights, keep your room as dark as possible to allow sleep time to take over.
Be Healthy. Eating right and getting exercise has been proven time and time again to help you sleep better. Find time to exercise, even if it’s just walking home from campus rather than taking the bus. Exercise will increase your energy level during the day, and help you sleep better at night. Eat healthy foods that will keep you full during the day, so you don’t end up hungry at night.
Create a Sleep Center: Make your bedroom a place conducive to sleeping. Make sure your mattress and blankets are comfortable, change your pillow out every year to be sure it’s fresh and fluffy. Keep your room cool, dark and as quiet as possible (ear plugs work wonders for noisy roommates). Don’t fall asleep in front of the TV, make sure you’re in bed to go to sleep each night.
Reduce your anxiety and stress level. It’s hard to fall asleep when your mind won’t shut off. If you can’t stop worrying, or you keep going over your flashcards in your head, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. Learn to use breathing techniques, relaxation methods or use a selective thought process to put worries out of your mind long enough to get some sleep. Keep a notebook by your bed and right down the things that keep running through your mind, this will transfer those thoughts from your brain, to your notebook and leave your mind free to rest.