By: Jill Royston, Program Coordinator, Student Wellness Resource Center
Imagine your best night’s sleep – no interruptions, the perfect warmth, sweet dreams….and when was that? I think for me that was around age 5! Sleep – we hear about it all the time, the health benefits, the reasons why we should strive for those 8 hours; however, remember what that was like in college? So do I….sleep was a privilege, not a necessity. Today I bring a different message. One that is more important and honestly, more imperative…sleep is essential – for all of us!
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 74% of adults are experiencing a sleep problem a few nights a week or more, 39% of adults get less than 7 hours of sleep each weeknight, and 1 in 3 adults are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with daily activities. In a recent study conducted on a college campus, only 7% of students surveyed got enough sleep to where they felt rested when the work up in the morning. (TAMU, 2007) In that same survey, 26% of students received a lower grade on an exam in a course, or had to drop a course, due to sleep difficulties. When everything is riding on whether or not you do well, many students will tell you that sleep is a luxury that cannot be afforded.
Most healthy adults need an average of 8 hours sleep a night – some are able to function with 6 hours while others need at least 10. Many of the GU college students I work with laugh when they hear this and regularly share that a good night’s sleep for them is a solid 4-5 hours. So why do they need sleep? A lack of sleep can lead to health problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, impaired ability to perform tasks with memory, learning, and logical reasoning, absenteeism from work or school, tension, depression, and confusion, generally lower life satisfaction, more frequent use of marijuana, alcohol, and other stimulants and increased risk of unintentional injuries and death. These are important things to consider when choosing to deprive oneself of sleep. Some of the causes of sleep problems include psychological (stress, depression), lifestyle choices (use of alcohol, caffeine, exercising too close to bedtime), environment (too hot/cold, noisy, bright, interruptions, comfort/size of bed, roommate), physical (pain, sleep apnea) and medications. College life in a residence hall does not necessarily lend itself well to a good night’s sleep, yet there are some things students can do to improve their sleep patterns and increase their sweet dreams!
Secrets to good sleep
• The first step is to exam your diet, exercise patterns, sleeping environment, personal habits, lifestyle, and current concerns.
• Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening – caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and could delay sleep while alcohol may help you get to sleep but it actually increases the number of times you awaken during the night
• Avoid spicy foods or foods with tomato products that are more prone to giving people heartburn
• Avoid drinking too many fluids
• Avoid eating too much or too close to bedtime
• Don’t nap during the day – if you need to take a short nap, only sleep for 20-30 min
• Exercise regularly – do so at least 3 hours (preferably 5-6) before bedtime to give yourself time to
• Try a relaxing routine – soak in a bath or hot tub before bedtime, read a book
• Make your sleep environment as pleasant, as possible – use a fan to drown out noise and make
it cooler; put shades over windows to make room less bright
• If you can’t get to sleep after 30 minutes, get up and do something that will help you get to sleep
(i.e., read, listen to music)
• Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even on weekends