The Importance of Sleep

Adjusting to college life comes with its fair share of exciting opportunities and challenges. It’s important to balance the effort you put into managing your academics and social life with the time you spend taking care of yourself. One significant way you can take care of both your physical and mental health (and improve your overall functioning) is by getting an adequate amount of sleep.

Everyone has different sleep needs. While the average sleep need for adults is about 8 hours each night, younger people often need more sleep than this to function well. We know that lack of sleep negatively impacts: problem solving, attention, creativity and motivation. Lack of sleep also plays a role in increased: moodiness (and for some even mood swings), anger, impulsivity and feelings of depression. In the long term, sleep deprivation increases our risk for serious illnesses. These undesirable effects make it hard to be the best version of yourself in social situations (i.e. make and keep friends) and perform your best in school (i.e. learn and retain information).

Adjusting to life on a college campus is often associated with a lot of change for new students. Living in a dorm with  other students, sharing a room (maybe for the first time), participating in campus activities, navigating new friend groups/classmates/professors and maybe being exposed to substance use are all big adjustments students have to face when they go to college. All of these changes and opportunities might make it easy to over-extend yourself in the beginning. As a result, it might feel necessary to sacrifice some sleep in order to juggle it all. Here are some ways that you can take care of yourself and your need for sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Try to develop a regular sleep schedule: going to bed and waking up at a similar time every day, which includes the weekends!
  • Put away the TV, computer, cell phone, tablet, etc. before bed. Scientists say that exposure to “blue light” makes it harder to get a good nights sleep because it negatively affects our sleep-inducing hormone (melatonin).
  • Keep the alcohol and illicit drug use under control.
  • Try to avoid all-nighters-while you may feel the need to work very late to get assignments done or prepare for exams, this practice actually leads you to be less effective in your work.

For more information about the importance of sleep and tips on how to sleep better check out this New York Times article on sleep as “an underappreciated key to college success,” The Huffington Post’s section on sleep and a discussion of the sleep challenges of college students.

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