College students are notorious for being sleep deprived. Not only do they have classes to attend, studying to do and possibly a part-time job, there are also parties to drop in on and football games to play or watch! This can be a great time of life for a lot of people but it also comes with its own amount of stress—some of which might be relieved by thinking a little bit more about your ability to get a good night of sleep.
The Importance of Sleep for College Students
College is all about studying, learning, and filling your brain. (Okay, so there’s probably more than a little fun mixed in as well.) The time that you spend sleeping is the time when your brain restores itself so that it can work properly.
Here’s some of the benefits that come when you are well-rested:
- Your Brain Cleans Itself. Important detoxifying chemicals are released each night during sleep to keep your mind clear. It’s like the maid come in and tidies up everything so that you wake in the morning with a clean brain! (Don’t you wish someone would do that for your dorm room?)
- Your Memory Improves. Research shows that your brain stays sharper and your recall power is higher when your mind is well-rested. So although you could stay up all night cramming for that exam, you’d really be better off getting a good night of sleep.
- Your Decision-Making is Clearer. Periods of unconscious thought, such as during sleep, can help you make better decisions. If you’re deciding to change your major or whether to skip out on that chemistry lab again, you’ll make better choices when you’ve had a good night of sleep.
- Your Brain Focuses Better. Everyday tasks such as studying, taking exams, or even remembering which class you’re supposed to be attending at the moment, are highly influenced by the quality of sleep you have gotten. Getting a healthy amount of quality shuteye keeps your mind sharp and alert throughout the day. Your problem-solving skills will be improved and you’ll feel more focused.
- You are Happier. Just getting a proper amount of sleep each night boosts your mental health and feeling of well-being. Sleep helps to fight off depression while reducing stress and worry. If you want your college life to feel less stressful, think about changing your sleeping habits for a happier state of mind!
Best Sleeping Habits for College Students
College can be a chaotic time of life with crazy hours and a hectic schedule that doesn’t lend itself well to sleeping. You’re probably not going to go to bed at nine o’clock like your grandparents do, but there are some minor changes you can make to your lifestyle that will lend themselves to healthier sleeping.
Try out these changes to your sleeping habits to see how it works:
Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
Trying to go the bed and wake up at the same time regularly will help a lot with your sleep schedule. Varying this by up to two hours is okay sometimes, but really it’s best if you can keep yourself to a similar bed time and wake time each day. Even if you don’t have an early morning class on Tuesdays, you should still try to get up at the same time. Although sleeping in might be tempting, it’s better for your overall health if you don’t.
Get a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Falling into bed after a stimulating midnight game of intramural soccer is not exactly ideal. Your body and brain need a relaxing evening routine to get you to sleep better. While you probably don’t have the option of taking a candlelit bubble bath every night, you can certainly strike a happy medium. At about the same time every evening you’ll need to stop studying and turn off your brain. Switch off those fluorescent light off and put on a soft lamp. Get your roommate to turn down that loud music and pop some calming music onto the stereo or through your headphones. Try a relaxing meditation app to help you de-stress from a day of learning and studying.
Don’t Use Your Bed for Studying
Although it might be the most comfortable spot to sit in the room, your bed should be reserved for stress-free sleeping. Studying should be at a desk or in another comfortable chair. Lying down in the bed should symbolize to your brain and body that it’s time to go to sleep—not time to study!
Work Out Early in the Day
Exercise is an important part of sleeping well at night, but it has a tendency to keep your body and mind awake for a few hours afterwards. Working out late into the evening can make it harder for you to sleep at night. So be sure to schedule your workouts so that they end at least three or four hours prior to the time you need to go to bed. That will give your body and brain time to slow down after a workout and allow you to rest better when the time comes to go to sleep.
Manage Your Caffeine Intake
Just being a college student often means that you’re relying on superficial stimulants to keep you awake during the day. Caffeine, energy drinks and the like may give you a short term boost, but they also can mess with your sleep schedule. Limit caffeine (which is in coffee, colas, teas, and chocolate) and other energy boosters to the morning time, if you must use them at all. Even if you don’t think that caffeine keeps you from falling asleep, it probably impacts the quality of your sleep. Stop drinking caffeine at least six hours before you need to go to sleep.
Turn Off Your Devices
Those blue lights coming out of your phone, computer, and tablets are sabotaging your brain and keeping you from sleeping! Turn off the devices at least an hour prior to going to bed. (Read an actual book instead—gasp!) This will give your brain a bit of time to power down so you’ll be ready to sleep when it’s time.
Your friends might think you’re a bit odd if you start making these changes to your life, but you’ll be the one getting better grades and making the most out of your years at college. Start taking an interest in your future with just a few minor changes to your sleeping habits. In the end, you’ll be the one who wins out!