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How to Get Enough Sleep in College

How to Get Enough Sleep in College

College is synonymous with all-nighters, whether it's cramming for an exam or cramming into a party. While sleep is a must, so are classes, club meetings, extracurricular activities and maybe even a part time job. Sleeping late on weekends might be the most popular quick fix, but it's not enough to pay back that rapidly accruing sleep debt.

So what's the problem with not enough sleep? Try these issues on for size:

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks: Just three nights of insufficient sleep can make you feel (and act) as if you're legally intoxicated. Research, assignments and even simple Q&A can feel like insurmountable tasks by Friday.
  • Memory and cognitive impairment: Sleep allows your brain to clean up the clutter and sort information. Your all-nighter is the equivalent of a Black Friday sale in your brain - everything is strewn around without order, recall takes longer and frustration is inevitable.
  • Increased risk of injury: Working, driving and even simple tasks like changing a light bulb become high risk activities. Why? Just as alcohol impairs your ability to spot nuances that could increase risk, your tired brain is sluggish and foggy and, in truth, an accident waiting to happen.

6 sleep tips to ramp up college learning

Sleep

Sleeping in a new environment can take some adjustment. Here are some helpful tips to get you catching as many hours of sleep as possible:

  • Create a sleep schedule. Set your alarm for going to bed. "We have an internal body clock that wants to stay on schedule. If you vary your sleep time by too many hours, you can throw off your rhythm such that it becomes hard to fall asleep when you want."
  • Exercise. It's important throughout life but even more so during your college career. You don't want to gain the dreaded freshman 15, right? Try to exercise at least two hours before bed - even if it's only for a half hour walk. This will give your body time to unwind before you go to sleep.
  • Control your caffeine intake. Between school work and socializing, it's easy to feel run down and need a caffeine boost to help you get through your day. Enjoy your last coffee by 2 pm and if you need an energy lift later in the day, take a walk to revive yourself.
  • Naps. Naps and college appear to go hand-in-hand. But only nap if you must so you don't interfere with your sleep routine at night. Keep naps to around 20 minutes and take them before 3 p.m. if possible.
  • Drown out the distractions. Since you're sharing a small space with a roommate, pack earplugs and a sleep mask before you leave home. These will help drown out noise and any light if your roommate stays up later than you. 
  • Power down at night. The electronic light of computers, tablets and television stimulate the brain. Turning off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed helps your brain power down and prepare for sleep.

No doubt that your first semester of college will be an exercise in learning to adapt - to new friends, new school and a new sleep routine. Setting and maintaining (okay, mostly maintaining) some sort of sleep schedule will help you keep up with the academic and social demands of college life.

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