We all hear that we should get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. But let’s be honest, as college students getting enough sleep is a feat only few have accomplished. The truth is, sleep quality is usually the lowest during college years.
“Up to 60% of college students report bad sleep quality (Lund et al., 2010); 14.9% indicate difficulties falling asleep, 25.9% report waking up frequently at night and 7.7% fulfil all general criteria for insomnia, according to the International Classification for Sleep Disorders (ICSD-II), second edition (Schlarb et al., 2012). Nightmares are reported by 4.5% of undergraduate men and by 8.3% of undergraduate women (Abdel-Khalek, 2010).”
(Friedrich, A., & Schlarb, A. A. (2017). Lets talk about sleep: a systematic review of psychological interventions to improve sleep in college students. Journal of Sleep Research. doi:10.1111/jsr.12568)
But why all the fuss? What about sleep makes such a huge difference?
One correlation study proved that GPA is directly linked to the amount and quality of sleep a college student has. Those who self-reported getting enough quality sleep had a GPA on average 0.65 higher than those who reported poor sleep quality. Students who identified themselves as “morning people,” (you know the type) had an average GPA 0.18 higher than self-identified “night owls.”
(Gaultney, J. F. (2010). The Prevalence of Sleep Disorders in College Students: Impact on Academic Performance. Journal of American College Health,59(2), 91-97. doi:10.1080/07448481.2010.483708)
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who get enough sleep get sick less often. Our immune system relies greatly on the development of proteins called cytokines, and several studies have indicated that these cytokines are produced while the body is asleep.
(Krueger, J. (2008). The Role of Cytokines in Sleep Regulation. Current Pharmaceutical Design,14(32), 3408-3416. doi:10.2174/138161208786549281)
Sleeping is also important for proper brain function. While you’re asleep, your brain is busy at work forming new pathways and connections that will help your memory and ability to learn.
Sleep also helps your body repair itself. Blood vessels, your heart, your organs, pretty much every part of you undergoes repair, which can help decrease risks of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Having a regular sleep cycle also helps regulate your circadian rhythm (basically the pattern of when you go to sleep and when you wake up regularly). Having a proper circadian rhythm ensures that your body hormone function is working well. You’ll release hormones (like cortisol) during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These hormones help you feel hungry and use up the food you eat. Sleep also influences the way your body regulates insulin and glucagon, those two hormones that make sure your blood sugar levels stay healthy.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your natural hormone cycles also get off balanced which, in effect, causes your hunger levels to be increased when you might not actually need the food. No wonder lack of sleep is also tied to obesity.
(Why Is Sleep Important? (2017, June 07). Retrieved June 16, 2017, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why)
And haven’t we all heard the term, “beauty sleep” before? Physiologically, when we sleep it helps maintain the moisture levels in our skin as well as regulate pH levels. Without enough sleep our skin is more likely to be dry, have redness, and break out.
(Cardellino, C. (2017, June 04). 8 Ways Too Little Sleep Can Mess With Your Face. Retrieved June 16, 2017, from http://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/advice/a42908/ways-sleep-can-mess-with-your-face/)
So, all in all, even though we’re in college and we’re busy and have deadlines and dates, every aspect of our life can be benefitted by getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, following a regular sleep schedule.
Here are five ideas to help you get more sleep:
- Make your room dark, cold, and quiet
- Stay away from bright lights before going to sleep. I have a string of Christmas lights around my bed that I turn on about an hour before I want to go to sleep.
- Put your phone away a half hour before going to bed
- Wake up to natural lighting
- Stick to a sleep schedule