For most college students, endless nights of paper-writing and studying are not uncommon. In fact, it’s not at all surprising that a recent poll showed that only 15% of students actually get the recommended amount of sleep (8 to 9 hours) per night. However, while getting a regular 6 or 7 hours a night may not seem like a big deal, it can actually do more harm than just making you feel tired during class.
Studies have shown that there are many benefits to having healthy sleeping habits, including improving mood, improving cognitive abilities, preventing physical discomfort, decreasing the risk of depression, helping to manage stress, improving the immune system defense, and even increasing life-span. However, when we don’t get enough sleep, we lower our own abilities to fight off illness and be able to function as needed. In fact, studies have even shown that sleep deprivation is even linked to individuals experiencing pre-diabetic states and gaining weight.
Finding time for sleep doesn’t just have to be purely health-related, either. In fact, according to a 2007 study, students who made time for sleep received higher GPAs than those who didn’t. Current research reveals that it is actually during sleep when the brain produces hormones to repair and grow. It is particularly during the Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM Sleep) in which we are able to consolidate what we’ve studied and learned that day, and potentially increase our abilities to learn and remember.
This means that, for students, sleep should be one of their top priorities. According to researchers, the best way to ensure ideal sleeping patterns is to set up a bedtime ritual, meaning that you should be prepping your body and mind for sleep, which includes finishing up your homework, turning off the TV/computer, and keeping the lights low.
Getting a good night’s rest also includes possibly using your room only for sleeping and doing your homework/work elsewhere. By doing this, you can compartmentalize the things you need to do, and let go of some of your stress before sleeping.
Other healthy sleeping habits include finishing eating 2 to 3 hours before bed, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bed, avoiding nicotine and alcohol, and turning off the television. Some studies even suggest that taking 20-30 minute naps (between 10 and 11 am or 2 and 4 pm) are helpful in compensating for lack of sleep. It is in these ways that you can ensure that you get the proper amount of rest and that you’re ready for whatever college has to throw at you.