Sleep

College students report at least twice as many sleep difficulties as the general population.

This is of particular concern because poor sleep quality can cause increased tension, irritability, depression, confusion and lower life satisfaction.

There is also strong evidence that getting adequate sleep can positively affect academic performance and GPA.

Sleep quality vs. quantity

In order to maximize the benefits that sleep provides, students need to consider both sleep quantity AND sleep quality. Experts recommend that young adults aim to achieve 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Additionally, students should remember that sleep quality is actually just as important as – if not more important than – sleep quantity.

Sleep quality includes how restful your sleep is and how frequently it is interrupted. Check out Tips for Getting Good Sleep to learn steps you can take to improve your sleep quantity and quality!

Source: Bulboltz, W.C., Loveland, J., Jenkins, S.M., Brown, F., Soper, B., Hodges, J. (2006). College Student Sleep: Relationship to health and academic performance. In College students: Mental health and coping strategies (pp. 1-39). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Sleep Debt

Contrary to many peoples’ beliefs, you cannot repay sleep debt.

For example, sleeping 12 hours on the weekend will not replace the sleep lost from only getting four hours on the weeknights.

These type of sleep schedule variations cause grogginess, depressed mood, attention and concentration difficulties, and long-term sleep difficulties.

If you are going to stay up late one weekend night, it should be Friday. That way you can get back to your normal schedule on Saturday and Sunday, and be ready for Monday morning.


Source: Bulboltz, W.C., Loveland, J., Jenkins, S.M., Brown, F., Soper, B., Hodges, J. (2006). College Student Sleep: Relationship to health and academic performance. In College students: Mental health and coping strategies (pp. 1-39). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Tips for Getting Good Sleep

Try to keep wake and sleep times regular. 

Don't vary them by more than two hours. This may be difficult on weekends, with the temptation to sleep in, but try to stick with it. Large variations in sleep schedules can have the same effects as getting less than normal amounts of sleep.1

  1. Franklin, B.C., Buboltz, W.C., 2002. Applying sleep research to university students: Recommendation for developing a student sleep education program.
Examples include taking a hot bath, reading a book or listening to relaxing music.

Your bedtime relaxing routine will help you to separate your sleep time from your daily activities that may cause you excitement, stress and anxiety.

Be sure to do these relaxing things away from bright light, and don’t do stimulating activities like homework right before bed. This can be difficult for college students to do, but try to have some downtime between studying and going to bed.

A sleep-friendly environment is dark, cool, quiet, comfortable and interruption-free.

This can be difficult for students living in residence halls, but here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • Try hanging a black sheet around your bed
  • Hang up dark curtains
  • Use eye-masks and/or ear plugs
  • Try “white noise” like fans or humidifiers to cover other noises
Don't ruin your sleep-friendly environment.

If you try to go to bed when you’re not sleepy, you may associate your bed with feeling frustrated about not being able to fall asleep.

If you can’t fall asleep after about 15 minutes, get up and go into another room. If you are in a residence hall, get out of bed and do something non-sleep related, but that is relaxing. Return to bed only after you feel sleepy.

Your bed is not for stressing.

This may be difficult to do with only limited furniture, but try not to use your bed for doing homework or other activities that can cause you anxiety.

This will strengthen the association between your bed and sleep.

Avoid heartburn and other discomforts.

Eating or drinking too much before bed can make you feel uncomfortable as you are settling down into bed.

Try to avoid heavy meals right before bed and be cautious of spicy foods, as they can cause heartburn, which may prevent you from sleeping.

In general, regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and can improve sleep quality.

Be sure not to exercise just before bedtime, as this can actually make it harder to sleep.

Try to finish your workout at least three hours before you go to bed.

Caffeine is a stimulant.

This means it causes your body to be more alert. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) can stay in the body for an average of three to five hours.

Even if you don’t think caffeine affects you, it is likely to hinder your sleep quality. Avoiding caffeine within six to eight hours before bed can improve sleep quality.

Substances interfere with deep sleep.

Although many people use alcohol as a sleep aid, it actually decreases sleep quality by increasing night time awakenings. This leads to a night of lighter sleep that is less restful.

Nicotine is a stimulant, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. When smokers go to sleep, withdrawal symptoms can also cause poor sleep. Nicotine can also cause problems waking up in the morning and cause nightmares. If you are a smoker, try not to smoke within two hours of bedtime.

An early afternoon nap may help you get through your day.

It is OK to take a short nap after lunch, but don’t nap longer than an hour, and never later than 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.

Sleep Assessments

Increase your sleep knowledge by taking these online self-assessments:

These self-assessments should not replace the advice of a medical professional.

 

Sleep Resources

Campus resources
  • OSU Student Health Services  
    • 541-737-9355