Skip to Main Content

Taking Care of Yourself

You are in the main content
Cover Photo Image


Sleeping Soundly

You know sleep is important; it's essential for good health, mental and emotional functioning, and personal safety. You've heard the "8 hours a night" rule your whole life. However, you're in college now and you've got a lot of good reasons to stay up late. Plus, there's no bedtime. It's hard to find a balance between being rested and being productive, especially when you have so much to do and your schedule changes every day. But did you know:

  • At least 2/3 of college students report occasional sleep disturbances.
  • 1/3 of those who reported sleep disturbances reported severe sleep difficulties.
  • One study showed that only 11% of the students surveyed met the criteria for good sleep quality.
  • 35% of adults reported experiencing at least one symptom of insomnia each night.

The Effects of Too Little Sleep:

Although the "8 hours" rule isn't right for everyone, 7 hours a night are recommended for most adults. If you stay up late, be prepared for some consequences. You will be groggier and less alert. It may take you longer to read and write class material, and you may have difficulty remembering what you studied. Your ability to solve problems will be impacted, as well as your metabolism, appetite, blood pressure, and mood. Insufficient sleep can specifically lead to one or more of the following problems:

  • Anxiety: People who get less than a full night's sleep feel more stressed, angry, sad and mentally exhausted. This pattern can lead to increased anxiety.
  • Cognitive difficulties: Insufficient sleep can cause deficits in attention, concentration, and critical thinking.
  • Depression: Sleep difficulties such as insomnia or excessiveness sleepiness, may be signs of depression.
  • Reduced physical health: Inadequate sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, and put you at risk for health related problems.

These symptoms are present after several missed hours of sleep and tend to get worse the longer you stay up.

What You Can Do If You Have Trouble Sleeping

Of course, sometimes there are the nights that, even when you make enough time, you just can't fall asleep. You toss and turn, calculating how much sleep you would get if you could just fall asleep right then. Your difficulty falling asleep could be due to many reasons: stress, anxiety, insomnia, substance use, caffeine, a new environment, noisy roommates, etc. Thankfully, there are things you can do to try to fall asleep and sleep more soundly:

  • Develop a routine! Spend time doing the same thing before bed each night. This will prepare you for sleep. Give yourself about 30 minutes to get ready. Avoid working right up until you go to bed.
  • Be consistent! Train your body to sleep at night by going to bed at the same time every day including weekends. It might be rough at first but it will be worth it after 2-3 weeks.
  • Avoid worrying in bed. Try journaling to help store your thoughts.
  • Make sure that your bedroom is as quiet and dark as possible. Use earplugs, a fan, or white noise (simplynoise.com) to mask noises that may interfere with your sleep.
  • Avoid or limit your use of caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening.
  • Nothing too stimulating before bed. Exercise is great for regulating sleep but don't exercise within two hours of falling asleep. No TV, computer, or electronic use 30 minutes before bed.
  • Practice relaxation skills that assist you in managing stress and decreasing physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g. yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.)
  • Satisfy your appetite. Avoid eating a huge, heavy meal before bed but make sure not to go to bed hungry.
  • Prepare for the next morning by having your clothes picked out and your books together for the next day. This will save a lot of time and you will not be rushed in the morning.
  • Stay cool! Try and keep the temperature in the bedroom around 70°F.
  • Keep your cell phone turned off while you sleep. Use a clock instead.
  • Don't drink a lot of fluids within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly and during the day (late afternoon, before dinner is good).
  • Reduce non-sleep activities in bed (eating, studying, using the computer) to strengthen the association between your bed and sleeping.
  • Avoid naps during the day. If you choose to take one, prevent yourself from sleeping longer than 20 minutes. Avoid taking them late in the afternoon.

If you can't fall asleep:

  • Don't try and force it. Don't lay there and worry and stress out about it. You don't want to associate trying to sleep with stress and anxiety. If you can't fall asleep after 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a relaxing activity for about 30 minutes (e.g. listen to soothing music, drink of cup of decaffeinated tea, enjoyable reading, or a relaxation exercise). No TV!
  • If you cannot sleep, don't worry. Accept that it isn't going to go the way you would like it to and plan to wake up at the normal time and have a normal day. You'll probably be tired, but that will help you get better sleep the next night.
  • Try and reduce worrying and stressing out in bed. If worries and anxiety are preventing you from sleeping, get up and write down what you're thinking in a journal.
8 Great Sleep Apps
Helpful Apps for Sleeping Better

Related Topics