During my junior year, my roommate dragged me to the campus hospital after I had experienced several days of erratic symptoms from tingling fingers, on and off headaches, and a lot of mental fog.
I thought something was seriously wrong with me, but the doctor’s diagnosis was simple but surprising: sleep deprivation.
I had cut my sleep down to 5–6 hours per night for two weeks because life in college was busy. I knew other people who got by on that much sleep, and I figured that limiting my sleep was the only way to get everything in. It hadn’t occurred to me that sleep deprivation would cause such immediate effects.
I stayed in bed for the next couple of days at the doctor’s insistence, and like magic, all of the symptoms disappeared.
I have valued my sleep ever since.
Some of us never end up in the hospital from sleep deprivation, but most college students experience some consequences of subpar sleeping habits at some point.
Contrary to common belief, students who sleep better and longer have higher GPAs, not the other way around.
Students who sleep better have better accuracy, coordination, memory, consolidation, and teamwork.
The effects of good sleep extend beyond the classroom. Sleep improves athletic performance, concentration and safety in the lab or while driving, and health.
Short-term sleep deprivation compromises the immune system making colds strike more frequently, increases hunger, and amplifies feelings of stress.
Over the long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer growth.
College is one of the hardest times to have good sleep habits, but the rewards for doing so are high. The following tips, however, can help you get a start on building a healthy sleep routine:
· Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
· Aim for sleeping between 7–9 hours, the normal range for college-aged students (some students are fine on 7, but many need closer to 9).
· Power down and avoid bright lights one hour before bedtime.
· Put your phone on the other side of the room so you aren’t tempted to keep checking it in the middle of the night.
· Avoid using caffeine after noon so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
· Limit your naps (if you choose to take them) to approximately 30 minutes and don’t nap after the mid-afternoon.
· Don’t drink more than four cups of coffee per day (a cup is equal to 8 oz, smaller than a “small” at most coffee shops).
· Work out a system with your roommate so you don’t constantly interrupt each other’s sleep.
· If you have trouble falling asleep, snore consistently, or perpetually struggle to wake up in time for class, see a doctor. You may have a sleep disorder.
Building healthy sleep habits is just as fundamental as having healthy nutrition, exercise, and mental health habits. In fact, many of these aspects of health are related.
By trying to get the most out of sleep, students will get the most out of college and build habits that will set them up for a happier and more fulfilling life.
Originally published at medium.com