Health & Safety

College Students and the Importance of Early Bedtimes and Sleep

Guest post by Christine Howell, a freelancer who regularly writes about college and health careers for CRNA Schools, a guide to CRNA careers.

Next to new mothers, college students get the least amount of sleep. With class times, work schedules, extra curricular activities and social lives, sleep is often low on the totem pole. College students tend to get by with as little sleep as possible. When they do sleep, they usually go to sleep late which makes for less sleep. Not only is this detrimental to health, it is also detrimental to getting good grades.

Sleep rejuvenates us. It restores the body mentally, physically and emotionally. College kids who do not get enough sleep experience problems in their physical performance, have problems concentrating, have troubles with their memory, are more open to illness and can experience problems like anxiety and depression. At the very least, sleep deprivation in college students makes them drowsy in class. This interrupts the thinking process, keeps them from paying attention, results in less memory retention and can end up being the cause of poor grades. By going to sleep earlier, and on a regular schedule, college students will improve their health and their academic performance.

The National Sleep Foundation offers some healthy sleep tips that college students can follow:

  1. Try to follow a regular schedule in going to bed as well as in waking up. College students should try to be in bed at a decent hour and arrange classes or work to begin after eight in the morning. A regular waking time keeps our circadian rhythm (our internal biological clock that helps regulate us) functioning strongly. Try to stay on the same schedule even on the weekend.
  2. When you’re starting a new sleeping schedule, instead forcing yourself to sleep early. Sleep only when you’re tired, but make sure you get up at a designated time. This way, your body will slowly acclimate to a new schedule and you will fall asleep earlier and get up earlier. Also start slowly, don’t suddenly start getting up at 5am if you’re use to getting up at 10. Do it in baby steps: get up at 9:30 the first week, 9 the second week, 8:30 the 3rd week, and so on.
  3. Establish a routine for bedtime. By doing something relaxing, such as taking a bath, listening to soft music or reading a book, you are helping your body unwind.
  4. Create a good sleep environment. Your sleep area should be quiet, dark, comfortable (make sure you have a good mattress) and a temperature that is to your liking.
  5. Eat at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  6. Exercise on a regular basis. Make sure this is done a few hours before you go to bed.
  7. Watch your caffeine. Caffeine stays with us for up to 5 hours (12 for some people).
  8. Stay away from nicotine which (besides causing cancer) is also a stimulant.
  9. Stay away from alcohol close to bedtime because it causes nighttime awakenings.
  10. Another thing college kids should take a look at are diets. It is important to be getting the right amount of B-complex vitamins which enhance sleep. Plenty of fruits and vegetables is always beneficial as well.

As Ben Franklin once said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” This still holds true today.

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