Sleep Tips for College Students

3 Things That Could Help You Sleep Better

  1. Stop using all technology 30 min before bed- no cell phone- no lap top- no kindle. The light block melatonin which can help you fall asleep. A 30 min wind down with relaxation and reading (a paper book) can make it easier to fall asleep.
  2. No caffeine after 3 PM.
  3. Sleep only an hour longer during the weekend than your latest weekday wake-up time.

Facts About Sleep: (from the National Institutes of Health)

  • College students are one of the most sleep-deprived populations.
  • Research at Brown University has found that approximately 11% of students report good sleep, while 73% report sleep problems.
  • 18% of college men and 30% of college women report having suffered from insomnia in the past 3 months.
  • Sleep deprivation in students has been linked to lower GPAs because sleep affects concentration, memory and the ability to learn.
  • The average adult sleeps less than seven hours each night, when most need eight or more hours.
  • More than one-third of adults report daytime sleepiness at least a few days per month that interferes with work or social functioning.
  • As many as 70 million Americans may be affected by chronic sleep loss or sleep disorders.

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

As a college student, there are many factors that may make maintaining a regular sleep schedule difficult, such as living in the residence hall, studying for exams, late classes, and socializing. Your daily habits and activities may affect how well you sleep. The demanding lives of undergraduate and graduate students can make it challenging to maintain healthy daily habits. Below are some suggestions for ways you can modify your daily routine to promote better sleep.

Time spent outside during the day helps to preserve your body’s sleep and wake cycles. There are many options on campus for this:

  • Walk to class.
  • Study outside.
  • Play a regular outdoor club sport.
  • Sled in the Arboretum in winter.
  • Relax in the sun with your friends.
  • Organize a weekly walk outside with your friends to get benefits of both exercise and sunlight.
  • Work a job that allows you to be outside.

Exercise can promote more regular sleep and wake patterns as well as reduce stress. It’s important to avoid exercise and other vigorous activities three-to-four hours before going to bed to avoid awakening the body even more and making it more difficult to fall asleep. To learn more about the benefits of exercise or to find ideas for fun exercise options on and around campus.

Eat smaller meals and be especially careful to avoid heavy meals near bedtime. Your eating schedule may be dictated by your class/work schedule or by the times when your friends are eating.

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, which disrupt sleep. It is best to stay away from these after lunchtime. If you are up late studying or just need a little more energy, try a small energy-boosting snack instead of a caffeinated beverage. If you feel that you have to have caffeinated coffee when you are up late studying, try to limit the amount of caffeine by filling half your cup with decaffeinated coffee.

Alcohol is disruptive to sleep, particularly if you have a mental health disorder. Keep these facts about alcohol and sleep in mind when deciding when and how much to drink:

  • Sleep experts recommend avoiding alcohol at least four to six hours prior to bed.
  • A common but inaccurate belief is that alcohol helps people sleep. Although it may help people fall asleep faster, research has shown that alcohol disrupts sleep throughout the night.
  • Alcohol aggravates snoring and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea has been linked to chronic medical conditions including hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Drinking alcohol while on medications, including psychiatric medications, can further worsen sleeping problems and side effects.

Practice time management with your school work. Worrying in bed about the next day or week can keep you from falling asleep. Try to stay on top of your school work to decrease your overall stress and worry, and to reduce last minute cramming. In addition, mentally plan for the next day before getting into bed.

Journaling before bed is a technique that some students find to be helpful in addressing concerns before bed.

While all-nighters and late-night study sessions may appear to give you more time to cram, they are also likely to drain your brainpower. Sleep deprivation hinders your ability to perform complex cognitive tasks like those required on exams. And it is unlikely that you will retain much information that you study while sleep-deprived. It is better to sleep the night before an exam, even if it means studying for fewer hours. Remember: research has shown that a good night of sleep is more beneficial for learning than staying up late cramming.

Staying up late and napping the next day is a common practice for students. However, in addition to the problems associated with staying up late, sleeping during the day for long periods will further disrupt your sleep pattern, leading to a vicious cycle. A short nap during the day could be helpful, but work it into your regular schedule. Keep the nap to about 30 minutes and try to do it at the same time each day before 3pm.

You may be tempted to rely on the weekend to “catch up” on sleep that you missed during the week. Generally, this only worsens your sleep pattern. The best solution is to get a regular amount of sleep as many nights as possible, and when necessary sleep only an hour longer during the weekend than your latest weekday wake-up time.

Living in places like residence halls, apartments, houses or fraternities/sororities with a large number of people can make it very difficult to control your sleep environment. Your roommate might be up studying late with a light on, or your housemates may decide to entertain until very late. You can be creative in finding ways to reduce the disruptions that keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Below are some suggestions:

  • Talk to your roommates about setting a regular sleep time so they can be respectful of your need for a quiet environment.
  • Purchase a white noise machine to block out unwanted sounds from within your own room or even outside. Instead of or in addition to the white noise machine, ear plugs or a small fan may be helpful.
  • Use a sleep mask to block out any unwanted light. This could be a great compromise with your residence hall roommate who may prefer to stay up later to study.
  • Purchase a desk lamp for you and each roommate to avoid using the overhead lights when one of you is sleeping.
  • Create a comfortable sleeping area to improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you have the option, choose the pillows, mattress, and bedding that are most comfortable for you.
  • Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature (ideally, slightly cool), and well-ventilated.

Having a set bedtime and rising time will help your body get used to a sleeping schedule. Sleep only an hour longer during the weekend than your latest weekday wake-up time, understanding that there may be exceptions depending on your schedule. Talk with your roommates about how you can establish a regular sleep routine in your residence hall room, apartment or house.

Avoid doing other activities such as studying or watching TV. This ensures that your body will not associate the bed with these activating tasks, which can make it harder to fall asleep. If there are few options other than your bed for these activities, reduce the level of intensity of the reading material or TV programs you select.

If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity outside of the bedroom until you feel sleepy again. Try deep breathing or relaxation techniques if you are having trouble falling asleep due to stress or anxiety.