Studies consistently show the benefits of getting enough sleep, especially for students. A great night’s sleep can be a gamechanger. We’re talking better grades and an improvement in your mood, memory, and motor skills. But getting those 7-9 quality hours may seem impossible for a college student whose favorite memories tend to happen at 3am. It’s hard to sleep when the parties are still raging or when you’re cramming the night before a test. The good news is that there are steps you can take right now to reap the benefits of quality ZZZs. Here’s how:
1. Put Down the Phone at Night
Over two-thirds of college students bring their phone to bed with them at night. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can be detrimental to sleep. It actually tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, so your body doesn’t prepare for sleep as it normally would. Using smartphones, computers, and televisions too close to bedtime can make it immensely difficult to fall asleep. These electronic devices can also stimulate your mind from reading emails or scrolling through your social media feed. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, it’s imperative that you limit the use of devices that emit blue light before bedtime. Try putting them down at least one hour before you want to fall asleep. If that seems impossible to you, look into blue-light-blocking glasses or screen filters.
2. Know Yourself and Your Schedule
If you are the type of student that enjoys staying up late at night and then sleeping in, it is not the best idea to take a 7am class. Alternatively, if you are the type of person that enjoys mornings and slumps as soon as it gets dark, avoid those early evening and night classes. When making your schedule at the beginning of the semester, be sure to keep in mind your behavioral own patterns. Missing a class will damage your grades and losing hours of sleep because you have to wake up early for a class will make you moody all day. Ideally, students should strive to create a ritualistic schedule, where they can go to sleep and wake up at consistent times each day.
3. Aim for 9 Hours
In a 2008 study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, researchers concluded that students ideally should aim for at least nine hours of sleep each night. The study focused on 882 students and found that a little less than half these students admitted to sleeping less than 8 hours a night. If you find yourself struggling to meet the nine-hour mark, researchers suggested naps throughout the day and in-between classes. It is easy to turn back to the dorm and catch a quick twenty-minute power nap. Also, as previously noted, going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day will help you normalize your sleep schedule and achieve your sleep goals, including reaching nine hours.
4. Skip the Afternoon Coffee
College students tend to gravitate toward coffee, energy drinks, and stimulant drugs to help them stay awake and study. Sometimes, we all can use a boost. But be sure to avoid stimulants like caffeine at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. Don’t forget - caffeine isn’t only found in coffee, but also in tea, chocolate, soda, energy drinks, and some medications. As for stimulant drugs, skip these all together, unless prescribed by a medical expert. They will only harm you in the short and long run.
5. Study During the Day
We’ve all been there. It’s 11pm on a Wednesday and you’ve just started studying for that final exam you have at 9am tomorrow. You tell yourself that if you drink enough coffee, listen to loud enough music, and manage to stay up all night, then you can easily ace the fifty-question multiple choice test you have on something incredibly specific and hard. But the truth is all-nighters do more harm than good to your grades. In a 2014 study by Dove Medical Press Limited (DMPL), all-nighters showed no improvement in grades. In fact, students took over two days to recover from all-nighters, and those who had slept before and after studying retained the knowledge better.
Making time to study during the day is critical to truly learning what you need to succeed. Put aside a couple of hours each day leading up to your test. By investing your effort early in the process, you can relax the night before and get a good night's rest, which will help optimize your memory and focus during the exam.
6. Use a Natural Sleep Aid
DMPL also found that 11.6% of students use alcohol as a sleep aid. While anyone that has ever drank alcohol before can tell you it makes you sleepy, what most people do not know is that alcohol can decrease the quality of your sleep and cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. Instead, opt for a more natural option like Som Sleep, which is designed to facilitate the natural process of sleep.
7. Focus on Your Mental and Physical Health
Finally, nothing keeps a student awake like stress, depression, and ruminating on negative thoughts. Learn to manage your stress. Visit the gym, maintain a healthy diet, and focus on cultivating a healthy mind. Find activities that relax and comfort you and make you happy, whether it be going to church, joining the chess team, or taking a yoga class. Do not be afraid to talk to your academic advisor or mental health counselor if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Reach out to friends and family and do not forget to take care of yourself. And remember to make sleep a priority!