Sleep is a necessity, period. We all know it. We just have a tendency to selectively forget the fact.
Too often, sleep is the first thing that students trade off in exchange for other demands on their time. Social activities, studying, and travel almost always seem to take priority.
We’re realists…we know that these will probably forever be trade-offs that students are willing to make. However, it’s important to share with you the toll that lack of sleep can have on your body, your immune system, your ability to concentrate, your physical performance, and your safety while traveling.
We hope that you’ll realize that an extra hour of sleep every night might be something you should consider more often.
Recommended sleep guidelines
Most people need between eight to nine hours of sleep per night. We may be able to get away with less temporarily, but eventually inadequate sleep starts to affect us. We tend to become short tempered, less creative, less able to problem solve, less able to manage stress and regulate emotions, and more likely to get sick. Cognitive and physical skills decline without enough sleep and memory formation is impaired. What most students don’t realize is that, if they slept more, they could probably learn better with less studying.
It is normal to have trouble falling asleep from time to time, especially if something is weighing on you like a fight with a friend upcoming test or performance. Some people have trouble sleeping many nights in a row or, in some cases, most nights. The clinical definition of insomnia is persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep that compromises daytime functioning. It affects approximately 15% to 20% of the general population. However, it’s important to note that not everyone who sleeps less than average each night has insomnia. There are natural “short sleepers,” who typically sleep less than seven hours per night. If you feel rested and alert upon awakening, there is little need to worry.
Recommendations for good sleep hygiene
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake time, and try as much as possible to adhere to this schedule
- Get regular exercise, but avoid strenuous exercise two hours before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking before bedtime.
- Enjoy relaxing activities in the evening to help cue the mind to sleep (for example, take a bath or read)
- Use your bed only for sleeping. Avoid eating, studying, watching TV, and other activities in your bed
- Go to bed only when you feel tired
Seek medical advice if:
- You are relying on sleeping medications to fall asleep, and you are unable to stop using them
- You suspect a medication you are taking may be contributing to sleep disturbances
- You snore loudly and feel extremely fatigued during the day
- You have episodes of gasping or choking, or have been told you stop breathing periodically during sleep
- You wake frequently because of leg cramps or leg movements
- You feel medical or emotional problems are contributing to insomnia
- Your sleep difficulties have persisted for over one month