Sleep Tips for Students

Sleep Tips for Students

Sleeping Student

Remote education concept. Tired black male student sleeping at table while reading textbook indoors. African American youth bored at dull homework, exhausted from preparing for complicated exam

Summer is nearing its end, and the start of the school year is upon us.  While most students are merely dreading Hamlet, Russian History, or even that summer math assignment that they procrastinated until the night before, what they may forget is that the start of every new school year brings another issue:  an impending lack of sleep.

I can personally attest that in high school and college especially, sleep seems to just slip right out from under us, often without us even noticing.  Sleep has become less and less of a necessity for most students, especially with the increasing stress of success and the pressures of parents and peers. Unfortunately, sleep just does not seem that important when you have a 10-page essay due the next day, or that math test that you have been actively avoiding.  As a result, our students are getting fewer and less hours of good sleep.

While it may be true that you can technically survive on a decreased amount of sleep, that does not mean you can actually thrive.  In fact, studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can affect your brain in the same way as having a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .05%, and who wants to take a History test drunk?  I mean, seriously.  Answering questions about World War II while intoxicated does not sound that appealing.

According to a 2012 study, done by Statistic Brain, only 31% of high school students actually achieve an average 8 hours of sleep per night.  The same study suggests that students age 10 to 17 should get around 9 hours of sleep every night.  So, not only are students not achieving the average, but they are also not achieving the recommended hours of sleep per night by a significant number.  As students get older and enter the mystical land of adulthood and responsibility, these habits stay with them.  Studies show that between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleep or wakefulness disorder.

So, how do we avoid these issues as students and adults?  The most important thing someone can do for their sleep is to establish good sleep hygiene.  By establishing a positive routine before you go to bed, your body will begin to habitually prepare itself for sleep.  This can greatly improve the quality of sleep you experience throughout the night.

One of the most useful sleep tips I learned in college (and one of the hardest to follow through on), is to wake up at the same time every day.  Say you have an early class on Monday and Wednesday, but your Tuesday and Thursday classes don’t start until noon.  Wake up every day as if you are going to your early morning class.  Set a time to wake up and stick to it throughout the week (preferably a time that allows you to be on time for your early classes).

Another useful tool is to only utilize your bed for sleeping.  Rather than studying in bed, find an environment that closely mimics your school environment.  If you don’t have a desk in your room, try your kitchen table.  Studies have shown that by doing so, your study habits will increase in efficiency and effectiveness.  Similarly, if your body and brain automatically know that your bed is only a place for sleep, it will become much easier to actually sleep there.  By studying in bed, you decrease your effectiveness and literally bring your stress from school to bed with you.

Lastly, one of the most inconvenient rules to follow is the Nap Rule.  This rule states that naps are good, great even, but only before 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  I can wholly understand that the time constraint on this rule greatly decreases the chances that you will actually get a nap in, but it is still an important rule to follow.  As we get older, naps seem to increase in their amazingness.  No longer are the days of preschool when nap time was that dreaded beast created solely to keep you from your Lincoln Logs.  As an adult, I nap almost whenever I get a chance.  Unfortunately, napping after that fateful time only ends up being harmful to the actual sleep that you should achieve later that evening.  Naps can be very beneficial, but they should never be used as a substitute for sleep, only as a supplement.

Through our years of schooling, we experience more than a few bumps in the road.  Fortunately, there is an easy solution for making these bumps much more manageable:  getting a great night’s sleep.  I can not express enough the importance of a good night of rest, nor the benefits.  I can only say that trust me or not, getting good sleep will definitely be worth it in the end, especially more than that extra hour of sleep-deprived studying.

Cheers and sleep well.