Updated: Jul 25, 2021
How to Experience Better Sleep in University
“We all do them, we know they’re outrageous, and we know these eye-bags are our battle scars as students — all-nighters behold! This article will go over the importance of sleep, and tips on what to do beforehand to ensure students can get the most of their resting periods, even on reduced hours“
Author: Alison MacPhee
We all do them, we know they’re outrageous, and we know these eye-bags are our battle scars as students — all-nighters behold! This article will go over the importance of sleep, and tips on what to do beforehand to ensure students can get the most of their resting periods, even on reduced hours.
Causes & Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is commonly observed in nearly every age group, and it can be accompanied by a wide variety of unpleasant side effects. It can cause mood changes, fatigue, forgetfulness, low motivation, unhealthy food cravings, irritability, impaired coordination, and reduced sex drive [1,2]. More serious side effects include impaired brain development in adolescence, depression, and elevated risks of suicide, obesity, and diabetes [1,2].
With classes back in session and midterms underway, it is no surprise that post-secondary students have limited time to sleep . In fact, 70-96% of students get less than 8 hours of sleep on the average night . Students of this age face an enormous amount of social pressure and ‘fear of missing out’, which may also be instilled by the need to keep up with social media [1,3]. After all, it is easy to give into the temptation of going out when all your peers are doing just that. Social life must also be balanced with countless hours of studying, working part-time jobs, and more, ultimately leading to the need for all-nighters. The side effects of sleep deprivation are particularly detrimental in university because the lack of focus and motivation can lead to drastic drops in academic performance . Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks that could be beneficial to students, not only to improve their sleep quality, but also to improve your overall wellbeing.
Figure 1. Post-secondary students are often among the sleepiest groups of people .
Improving Sleep Quality
First and foremost, all-nighters need to stop . It is proven that performance and productivity start to decline after being awake for 15-16 hours straight . In addition, it is ineffective to stay up late on weekdays just to “catch up” on the weekend, because one’s internal body clock has trouble adjusting to new routines so frequently . To combat this, it is recommended to keep a regular sleep schedule, in which you can achieve 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep [1,4,6]. This means waking up and going to bed at roughly the same time every day, including weekends [1,4,6]. If you are not tired enough, cut out caffeine in the afternoon and evening, eliminate eating large meals right before bed, and put electronic devices away 30-60 minutes before bedtime [1,2,4-6]. Limit naps during the day and perhaps try meditation as another means for relaxation [1,2,4-6]. The goal is to be as relaxed as possible by the time you are closing your eyes.
It is also crucial to ensure your sleep environment is ideal for rest. Dimmed lights and cooler temperatures (20°C or 70°F) are optimal for sleep . It is also important to remember to change mattresses every 5-8 years and to have comfortable pillows . Once these factors are taken into consideration, do not use your bed for anything other than sleep, if possible [1,4,5]. If you associate your sleeping quarters with school or other activities, it will lose its peacefulness and it will be more challenging to fall asleep .
Figure 2. All-nighters and long study hours may contribute to sleep deprivation .
Lastly, many students view sleep as a luxury and do not prioritize it as much as studying . Fortunately, there are also ways to manage study time effectively. Ensure that you have a designated workspace that is separate from your sleeping space, as mentioned previously [1,2,4,5]. Develop a study routine, with which tasks are broken down into smaller segments . For example, put in 1-2 hours of work for one class at a time, alternate between classes, and take breaks in between . Organization is also a key asset in maximizing productivity and using a calendar to mark upcoming deadlines will keep you on track to finish tasks on time. Using a calendar, plan an adequate amount of time for each task, and most importantly — as tempting as it may seem — do not procrastinate !
Benefits of High-Quality Sleep
By following these tips, you can be sure to reap the benefits of high-quality sleep. Those who consistently achieve the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep tend to have improved immunity, mental health, learning, memory, metabolism, coordination, and overall well being [1,2]. Not only that, but accomplishing academic goals will be easier than ever! So, next time you consider pulling an all-nighter, think about whether the risks really outweigh the benefits.
Rushil Dua, Jasmine Kokkat, Rhea Verma, Mouayad Masalkhi
Williams Thottungal and Majd Al-Aarg
Header Image by Matheus Vinicius .@matheusdk00 from Unsplash
University of the People [Internet]. Pasadena (CA): UoPeople; c2020. Sleep deprivation in college students: How to cope; c2020 [cited 2020 Sep 18]. Available: https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/sleep-deprivation-in-college-students-how-to-cope/2.
McCullum K. [Internet]. San Francisco (CA): AC Online; c2020. Guide to sleep for college students and older teens; c2020 [cited 2020 Sep 18]. Available: https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/guide-to-sleeping-for-college-students-and-teens/
Hershner S. Is sleep a luxury that college students cannot afford? Sleep Health [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2020 Sep 18]; 1: 13-14. Available from: https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(14)00011-4/pdf
American Academy of Sleep Medicine [Internet]. Darien (IL): AASM; c2020. College students: Getting enough sleep is vital to academic success. 2007 Nov 30 [updated 2017 Nov 6; cited 2020 Sep 18]. Available: https://aasm.org/college-students-getting-enough-sleep-is-vital-to-academic-success/
University of Saskatchewan [Internet]. Saskatoon (SK): Student Wellness Centre; c2020. Sleep; 2017 Apr 2 [cited 2020 Sep 18]. Available: https://students.usask.ca/articles/sleep.php
Eske J [Internet]. Brighton (UK): Medical News Today; c2020. Having trouble sleeping: What to know; 2019 Dec 17 [cited 2020 Sep 18]. Available: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327339#tips-for-better-sleep
Mawer R [Internet]. San Francisco (CA): Healthline; c2020. 17 Proven tips to sleep better at night; 2020 Feb 27 [updated 2020 Feb 28; cited 2020 Sep 18]. Available: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better#1.-Increase-bright-light-exposure-during-the-day
University of Michigan [Internet]. Sleep. c2020 [cited 2020 Sep 19]. Available: https://uhs.umich.edu/sleep
Bluesyemre [Internet]. College sleep. 2016 [cited 2020 Sep 19]. Available: https://bluesyemre.com/2016/05/05/how-university-students-sleep-most-students-at-top-colleges-have-the-same-sleep-pattern/