We’ve all been in that time crunch in college where we have to choose between going to sleep or pulling an all-nighter. Whether it is a late night study session, writing a paper or just terrible procrastination, everyone knows what it’s like when you give up sleep. We know how it feels in class the next morning going on zero hours of sleep and feeling like a zombie, maybe even filling yourself with caffeine to get through the day. If only students had a better understanding of how vital sleep is in protecting your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. In fact, an Institute of Medicine report estimated that “hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on direct medical costs related to sleep disorders such as doctor visits, hospital services, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications.”
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends, for each age group, the healthy amount of sleep and these ranges are a great way to determine whether your sleep habits are, in fact, healthy. It is recommended that adults 18 and over should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, but in reality, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report. A study conducted by The National Center for Biotechnology Information targeted college students and found that 74% of the participants reported symptoms of an insomnia disorder, with 51.9% fulfilling all criteria for an insomnia disorder. It is also important to know that you cannot make up any sleep that you miss. Approximately 30-50% of college students nap, but research has shown that nappers actually sleep less than non-nappers. Some common responses the University of Georgia received from those who do not get enough sleep included getting sick more often, feeling more stressed out, and even a lowered GPA and academic performance.
So, maybe that all-nighter isn’t worth it? Here’s some pertinent information college students must know about sleep. Getting a full night sleep is an important aspect of memory storage. While you are sleeping, your brain organizes, sorts, and stores what you have learned and experienced throughout the day so that it is easier to remember this information later. The University of Georgia explains in order to study better, more efficiently, and to increase the likelihood of learning and retaining information, getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep is crucial. However, the issue for many students is they are continually not meeting the sleep recommendations. Dr. Epstein, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and past president of AASM, states that “after two weeks of sleeping six hours or less a night, students feel as bad and perform as poorly as someone who has gone without sleep for 48 hours.”
I am sure you are now wondering how you can get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night, so here are some helpful tips! Maintain a sleep schedule where you are getting up and going to sleep at the same time, this will help you regulate your internal clock. Avoid long naps, especially in the afternoon, because this could prevent you from being able to fall asleep at night. Avoid using bright lights and screens before going to sleep because this can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Finally, get out and exercise! Exercising helps both sleep quality and quantity because it increases the time spent in deep sleep, which is the most physically restorative sleep phase.
As a college student myself I find it difficult at times to maintain a healthy sleep routine. However, after further research on the impact sleep has on everyday life, I understand the significance of reaching the recommended amount of sleep. The tips I found in the various articles are incredibly helpful in falling asleep quicker and I hope you give them a try. The night before your next test, just remember Z’s come before A’s.