Think skipping out on sleep will help your grades? Think again
Keeping a hectic schedule and depriving your body of sleep may seem normalized to some as an increasing number of adults don’t get adequate sleep. But far from being normal or desirable, long-term sleep deprivation carries negative health consequences. If nothing else, skipping out on sleep will lead to sleeping through lectures, which can tarnish your reputation with your professors and impact your grades.
Since quality sleep and a regular sleep schedule are essential for good health, creating better habits surrounding sleep now is an excellent investment in your long-term well-being. Prioritizing optimal sleep will improve your academic, social and work life, and small shifts can greatly impact your ability to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Why getting a good night’s sleep is important
Getting a full night of sleep is essential for all people, and it’s especially important for college students under the age of 25, whose brains are still developing.
There are many reasons to prioritize healthy sleep habits, including:
- Improving brain function: Lack of sleep has negative effects on your hormones and brain function.
- Better academic performance: Getting enough sleep has been linked to better academic performance and higher grades because students who get a restful sleep have more energy to study for exams and focus while working on assignments.
- Increased retention: Students who get enough sleep each night have increased retention and better memory, leading to better performance on exams.
- Better overall health: Getting enough sleep regulates your metabolism and can have health benefits, including lowering your risk of heart disease. People who get enough sleep are also able to exercise more.
- Better decision-making: Getting enough sleep has been shown to lead to better risk evaluation.
- Improved immune system: Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy immune system and will help you get sick less often.
How to get a good night’s sleep as a college student
Keep a regular sleep and wake schedule
Does your schedule vary day-to-day as you balance classes, work, study sessions and your social life? While balancing a lot can get in the way of a good sleep habit, being well-rested will actually make it easier to navigate your daily life. Your body’s rhythm will change to match your schedule, which will improve your sleep quality.
There are several ways you can modify your life to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
Evaluate your daily schedule
If juggling too much is disruptive to your sleep schedule, take inventory of what you do with your time.
Make a list of everything you have to do for school and work, plus social activities. Block off time for all that you do in a planner to make it easier to manage your time, Consider keeping a sleep diary to keep track of your habits, as well.
If you have too much on your plate, dial back where you can. Are you choosing classes during times of the day that work for you? Does your work schedule support your academic and health goals? Look for places where you can modify your schedule to make it more intuitive.
Stick with a sleep routine
Sleeping in on the weekends can make it harder to wake up in the morning and lead to grogginess.
Try to develop a bedtime routine and stick with it. If you find yourself hitting snooze to avoid the stress of getting ready in the morning, streamline your sleep hygiene by planning ahead of time.
Don’t go to bed too early
If you find yourself becoming drowsy after dinner, try doing something to stay awake like tidying your living space, talking to a friend or roommate, going for a leisurely walk or listening to upbeat music.
Use natural light during the day to promote a good circadian rhythm
Your body uses natural light to regulate its internal clock, so it’s important to get enough sunlight. Try adding natural light to your morning routine by having your coffee by the window or by going for a walk first thing in the morning.
Throughout the day, look for opportunities to go outside. If you eat lunch at the campus dining hall, is there patio seating? Can you pack a sandwich and eat it at a picnic table?
Try opening your curtains when at home or sitting by a window when studying at the library.
Limit artificial light to fall asleep faster
Avoid exposure to bright lights emitted by electronics prior to sleeping. Put down your device at least an hour before bed to allow your brain to produce melatonin and regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Resist the urge to fall asleep texting or watching television. If you need to study before bed, try relying on books and doing your screen-reliant studying during the day.
Blue light glasses block the blue light emitted by tech from reaching your brain and impacting your body’s production of melatonin. While you should still avoid devices immediately before bed, the additional blue light glasses benefits will promote a more refreshing sleep.
Adjust your thermostat
Body temperature fluctuates naturally throughout sleep, and the room temperature works alongside it. According to sleep experts, the ideal temperature for comfortable sleep is between 60-68 degrees. With a smart thermostat, you can program a comfortable temperature in that range for bedtime and control the temperature remotely using a smartphone app.
Try holistic sleep aids and supplements for sleep
Natural sleep aids can help you sleep at night. Check with your doctor before using a new supplement or sleep aid, even those that are natural and non-habit forming.
Melatonin is the body’s sleep hormone and can be taken in 5mg tablets to promote sleep. One study showed a 15% improvement in sleep as a result of melatonin supplements. Be careful when taking melatonin for sleep, as some people experience drowsiness the next morning.
Magnesium is a chemical element essential for over 600 processes in the body. Take magnesium in the form of a supplement to promote relaxation and sleep.
One of the most popular ways to take magnesium for sleep is in the form of the supplement Calm, which is an anti-stress drink that restores healthy magnesium levels and promotes sleep. It can be made into a warm beverage and mixed with lemon for a soothing nighttime ritual.
Lavender has been shown to lead to increased feelings of calm and relaxation and to induce sleep. Try diffusing lavender essential oil before bed, using a lavender bath bomb or even applying lavender lotion to fall asleep.
Meditate and practice mindfulness to promote calm and fall asleep
Practicing mindfulness and relaxation exercises before bed improves the quality of your sleep and helps you fall asleep faster. Meditation for sleep promotes a general sense of well-being and calm, as well.
Listen to a guided meditation before bed, and play calming, quiet music or ocean waves through noise-canceling earbuds.
Try a hot shower or bath
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Many college students rely on caffeine in the morning to feel energized to take on the day, and caffeine offers benefits like enhanced focus and alertness.
Drinking caffeine within six hours of the time you intend to go to sleep can negatively alter your sleep patterns and result in poor sleep quality because caffeine is a stimulant that inhibits your body’s ability to relax and produce sleep hormones. It’s best to only drink caffeine in the morning.
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