Student Slumber

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I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping lately. I know, I know, I’m in college – we’re all staying up too late studying and partying and getting up too early for classes. But I really do feel like my sleep schedule is a problem, and I know that several of my friends feel the same way. Do you have any tips on getting good sleep as a college student?

Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.

It is certainly true that college students are not known for getting great sleep – and you are also right that that lack of sleep is a problem. Medical experts tell us that the average person needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. But many Americans do not get that much sleep, and college students are notoriously sleep-deprived: they get an average of 6 to 6.9 hours of sleep a night. If a couple of hours does not seem like much to you, keep in mind that a person on the low end of that sleep figure (6 hours) and the high end of the sleep needs figure (9 hours) is getting just 66.6% of the sleep they need.

And the amount of lost sleep is not the only thing at play here. An average, of course, does not mean that college students are getting exactly 6 or 6.9 hours of sleep a night. The reality is that sleep schedules fluctuate with the partying weekends and early-morning classes you mention, which is bad news for your body. Nobel prize-winning research has shown us just how deeply our sleep patterns are ingrained in us, evolutionarily speaking: even the lowly fruit fly has what scientists call a “circadian rhythm.”

Our need for sleep is a matter of science, but getting good sleep can sometimes feel more like an art. Things like the comfort of your bed and the temperature of your room can affect your sleep. Experts say water pillows and other comfort improvements can help. You may find that earplugs and sleep masks help you block out the noise that your fellow sleep-deprived students are making late at night. You can even download apps or keep a journal to try to learn your sleeping habits and adapt them to create a healthier pattern.

It is important to mention that, for some people, sleep is not just a matter of comfort or patterns. There are medical issues that can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep, too, and they are surprisingly common. Experts estimate that 50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder of some kind. About 30% report suffering from insomnia, which is the most common type of sleep disorder. Other sleep disorders include sleep apnea and narcolepsy. If you believe that you are suffering from a sleep disorder, you should take advantage of the health resources available at your university. Head to the health center and speak to them about your specific problem to learn more. Sleep is important, so make sure that you are getting yours.

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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