Do you know that sleep plays an essential role in the mental and physical growth of college students? Follow this article to learn about the importance of sleep, how much sleep do college students need and how a student can maintain a healthy sleeping habits.
Sleep is the basic requirement of the human body to function in a healthier way. The lack of sleep can draw negative effects on the person belonging to any age group. When students enter their colleges, they take hold of their lifestyle and often overlook the importance of sleep.
People have nowadays glamorized hard work to the extent that the concept of sacrificing sleep for professional and academic reasons gets praised without acknowledging the consequences of it on one’s mental and physical health. However, It is important for a college student to prioritize his sleep so that he can perform well academically and in other co-curricular activities.
If you are a college student and struggling with your sleep pattern, then read this article to know how much sleep do college students need, how they can implement a healthy sleep pattern in their lives, and what beneficial changes they can bring.
Table of Contents
Importance of sleep
It has been scientifically proven that sleep is a basic need of the human body. It relaxes the mind and makes your body function in a healthier way. The sleep duration depends on the age of the person. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration, the requirement of sleep in the human body differs from age to age. It can be explained in the following manner:
- Newborn babies need more than 14 hours of sleep
- Infants need more than 12 hours of sleep
- Toddlers need more than 11 hours of sleep
- School going children need more than 9 hours of sleep
- Teenagers need more than 8 hours of sleep
- Young and older adults need more than 7 hours of sleep
Knowing about your required sleep duration is not enough to implement it into your life. There are other factors, such as your physical activity and health, that have a lot to do with your sleep cycle.
Reasons why students do not get enough sleep?
Lack of sleep does not only make your immune system weak but affects other activities of one’s life too. When a person does not get the required sleep for more than one day, it makes him sleep-deprived. There are several reasons that cause sleep deprivation in college students; some of those reasons are listed below:
Poor sleep hygiene
The majority of people are into poor sleep behaviors, which means they do not have proper discipline in life. It all depends on habit and routine, as good sleep hygiene can not be developed in a day or two. For good sleep hygiene, one needs to have a regular sleeping schedule, avoid caffeine or drink, and have healthy physical activities throughout the day.
Balance your body’s circadian rhythm
It is a sleep-wake pattern of the human body that works on a 24-hour cycle. Your brain works on this rhythm and receives signals to activate the hormones and regulate the metabolism of your system. Humans in their teen years experience a shift in their circadian rhythm and delay their sleep time.
The availability of technology in the bedroom of college students has gained their attention and made it habitual for them to use technology before bed. An increase in screen time before bed makes it difficult for them to fall asleep early and then wake up early in the morning. It alerts the cognitive ability of the brain, and the brain then requires some time to make it sleep as the circadian rhythm works depending on the environment. The light of the screen decreases the melatonin level in the human brain, which is required for sleep.
Part-time working hours
Students who work part-time not only suffer in academic performance but also have unhealthy sleeping patterns. They work for long hours out of necessity and then are unable to meet the required duration of sleep. Their sleep, as well as studies, get compromised. Some of the colleges offer fee waivers and stipends for deserving students, but they should further provide counseling sessions to all the students so that they can improve time management skills and bring balance into their life.
The consumption of alcohol among college students shortens the sleep latency of the human body. Apart from average alcohol consumption, many students suffer from binge drinking, which completely disrupts the sleep cycle of the human body and makes one sleep in fragments. Alcohol not only weakens the immune system of the human body but also increases the risk of sleep apnea among students.
Procrastination leaves college students with pending assignments and unprepared tests. When a student studies the entire night to prepare for a test or exam, his body needs to get the amount of sleep required for it to function. It further disrupts other daily activities because the person feels lazy, which makes it hard for him to focus on any other activity. An all-night study session is not the appropriate way to improve learning because a person with proper sleep can perform better than someone who feels tired and dizzy.
Caffeine intake is a common habit of people to refresh their minds in the morning, but an inadequate dose of it can disturb your sleep cycle. The effect of caffeine lasts for up to 7 hours on the human brain and keeps it awake. There are many people who consume not only caffeine once or twice a day but after every few hours every day. Such people can get used to the effect of caffeine and sleep even after consuming it, but it can bring long-term side effects on their sleep quality. If a student consumes alcohol near his bedtime, it can impair his ability to sleep early.
Melatonin is an important hormone that helps our body to perform its functions in the 24-hour cycle. This hormone takes a shift in the teen years of the human body as it produces a few hours later than its expected time. Teenagers are not that aware of their hormonal changes and turn careless towards them. They sleep when they feel fatigued, which can be any time of the day, and they lose control over their sleep cycle. For this reason, they struggle to sleep early at night, and when they wake up, their melatonin is still being produced, and they feel drowsy in the morning.
Sleep and peace of mind are interconnected factors, as a disturbance in any of them can affect the other. Students going through a depressive phase or depression have trouble sleeping at night, which results in excessive daytime sleepiness. Other sleep illnesses, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, can also disturb sleep cycles and cause depression. The stress of college life regarding studies, classes, and extracurricular activities can make a student stressed, which further affects his sleep.
How can college students improve sleep?
There are several ways through which one can improve his sleep cycle and get rid of sleep deprivation. Some of them are:
A fixed sleep schedule:
Make sleep one of your priorities, and try to go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. You should make sure that the amount of sleep you get in those hours is more than 7 hours but not more than 9 hours so that you do not depend on excessive sleep. It will make your body develop a 24-hour cycle and establish a routine.
There are some days when your personal or professional commitments require you to sacrifice your sleep, but you have to set boundaries and call off such commitments so that your body gets enough rest every night to function in a better way the next morning.
Avoid electronic devices before bed:
If you use your mobile phone or watch television, then you need to turn off all electronic devices an hour before your sleep time. The screen light of the television, mobile phones, and laptops can keep your mind stimulated and make it difficult for you to fall asleep. You can engage yourself in relaxing activities such as reading or taking a warm bath an hour before bed rather than scrolling your mobiles or pads.
Avoid caffeine before bedtime:
There are different sources of caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, energy drinks, etc. All these items should be avoided before bedtime because the caffeine in them can make you stay alert for up to 5 hours and affect your sleep quality. The intake of caffeine should be limited to daytime so that it refrains you from sleeping in class and keeps your brain alert.
Minimize your daytime naps:
Taking naps in the afternoon after college is common among many students as they do not get enough sleep at night and feel drowsy during the daytime. However, it helps to reduce sleepiness as you wake up fresh and active. You should nap for only 20-30 minutes so that you feel relaxed and, at the same time, do not have trouble falling asleep at night.
Increased physical activities:
All physical activities, be it a sport, exercise, or a long walk, help humans to stabilize their metabolism. It can help one stay awake in their bed at night, tossing from one position to another and falling asleep easily. Moderate aerobic exercise for only 30 minutes a day can improve the sleep quality of a person.
Comfortable bedroom environment:
The environment of your bedroom plays an important role in your relaxation. You should make sure that the place you sleep is comfortable and cozy, having a moderate temperature so that your body is relaxed and the quality of your sleep is also enhanced.
Other components that can improve the quality of your sleep include clean bedding and soothing fragrances. Clean bedding refers to neat pillowcases and sheets which can not only prevent you from dirt and oil that build up after a few days but also help you sleep peacefully. There are some scents that can enhance your sleep quality so that you can wake up much fresher. Some of the impactful scents include lavender, essential oil blend, chamomile, peppermint, etc.
The room should be quiet and peaceful:
One of the important factors that can make your room a comfortable place to sleep is it being dark and quiet. Students living in college dorms can find this challenging because of unwanted noise entering their room from outside and roommates interrupting their sleep by turning on lights. They can try to make sure that there is no source of noise in the room as there are many noise-blocking curtains available to help you block the noise coming from outside of your bedrooms.
Cut down on alcohol:
Many people consume alcohol to relax their minds and sleep, but it affects the quality of their sleep and makes them wake up in the middle of the night. Consumed alcohol stays in the system for some time until it gets metabolized by liver enzymes. It is a slow process and, for this reason, results in late-night awakenings. Moreover, it increases the risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
Developing these above-mentioned habits can help you sleep easily and in a better way, but if there is any health issue, then it is advised to consult a health specialist so that he can diagnose the actual cause.
What is the best time to sleep for a student?
An average student is equipped with many responsibilities, such as studies, extracurricular activities, family, and work. He finds it difficult to balance all the things, as a result of which his health and sleep time get disrupted. When sleep gets compromised, it makes the student feel drowsy, and he dozes off during the daytime.
An average 18-25 year old needs 7-9 hours of sleep to stay healthy, so the best time to sleep depends on your wake-up time. You can calculate your hours of sleep by noting the time you want to wake up and then count 7 hours backward.
However, students are advised to go to bed earlier, around 10 pm, as this pattern suits our biological system because when the sun goes down and it starts getting darker, our brain secretes melatonin which further triggers other neurochemicals and helps your brain perceive that it is time to sleep. This pattern is called circadian rhythm, but if you do not follow this rhythm, your body’s internal clock will be misaligned, and your sleep pattern will get disturbed.
Benefits of good sleep
A night of good sleep has many positive effects on your mental and physical health. If you develop a proper routine and enough sleep required by your body, you will see it benefit you in the following way:
Strengthen your immune system:
Your body releases cytokines when you sleep, which helps you fall asleep and is also required by the body to increase if any bacteria or infection attacks your body. Sleep also increases the functionality of T cells in our body which plays an important role in building the immune system. When bacteria enter our body, cells recognize it as a harmful substance and activate a sticky protein to kill it.
T cells help the body to activate this sticky protein and safeguard our body from various diseases. A strong immune system plays an important role in the life of students because if a student falls ill frequently, he will suffer academically as well due to unattended lectures.
Boosts up your mood:
When you attain enough sleep every day, it helps your brain process emotions. Poor sleep can make you dull and affect your daily activity as your mind needs time to recognize all the emotions and then generate positive reactions for future situations. People dealing with insomnia are more prone to be depressed, which further disrupts their emotional balance.
College students need to make sure that their sleeping cycle is going right because quality sleep can help them refresh for the challenges of the next day and improve their productivity throughout the day.
Decreases the risk of heart disease:
An average college-going person should sleep for 8 hours, and if this time exceeds or recedes, it can have harmful effects on your body. Lack of sleep can affect the functionality of your heart as, according to a study, if a person sleeps less than 7 hours, he is more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Moreover, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure as when we sleep, our blood vessels relax, and the blood pressure goes down. Hence proper sleep can help your heart function in a healthy way and decrease the chance of heart failure.
Helps you lose weight:
Sleep deprivation disturbs your hormones, so you lose control over your cravings. Additionally, you feel tired because of not getting enough sleep, so you tend to eat more. One of the hormones called Ghrelin in our body is released to make us feel hungry, so when we do not sleep enough, the ghrelin level in our body increases, and another type of hormone called Leptin functions to suppress the appetite in our system.
As a result of this, we feel more hungry and overeat. A healthy weight can influence one’s productivity and other life activities; hence it is important for everyone, especially college-going students, to maintain a healthy body weight so that they can be more productive.
Enhance your academic performance:
Students who get enough sleep are more alert in class and are better able to participate. Sleep plays an important role in the life of a college student because with better sleep quality, a student’s mind and body recharge for the next day and helps him to memorize the lecture and consume the information.
When a student’s cognitive function works in a better way, he can make decisions and interact with others in a better way. Whether a student attends a virtual class or goes to campus, it is advised to get a good sleep so that he can focus on his lectures and not doze off during his class.
Sleep is an essential need of the human body, but when children enter college, they are seen to be struggling with their sleep patterns due to multiple reasons. These reasons include hormonal change, pulling an all-nighter, excessive use of technology and poor sleep hygiene, etc. Students, for their mental and physical health, should prioritize their sleep, and it can be done by adopting some healthy habits in their routine.
It is a consistent process where an individual will see it benefiting him with time when he will see his healthy sleep cycle improving his personal and professional activities.