Sleep Awareness Week: Sleep From A to Zzzzzs

Sleeping student

By Jeff Calareso

An A in Sleep is Uncommon

Seven to nine hours of sleep per night are recommended for adults 18 years of age and older, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Yet 39% of adults don't get at least seven hours on weeknights. Additionally, 74% have some form of sleep problem that prevents them from getting meaningful, adequate rest.

For college students, the numbers are more alarming. A recent survey at Texas A&M University found that only 7% of college students got enough sleep to feel well-rested in the morning. Additionally, 26% of students reported getting lower grades or needing to drop a class due to sleep issues.

Why Sleep Matters

A lack of sleep can cause a multitude of problems. College students who aren't rested are prone to missing classes. When they're present, they're likely to have trouble staying alert in class. Their memory, reasoning and comprehension skills will also suffer.

Outside of coursework, sleep-deprived students experience depression and stress. If they get behind the wheel, they can be a potentially fatal hazard to themselves and others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 55% of crashes related to falling asleep at the wheel involve people younger than 24, with the highest rate of crashes for 20-year-olds.

Learning to Sleep Better

Even amidst the harried schedule of a college student, there are ways to help get better sleep. The first step is to focus on your schedule. Establish routines around when you'll study, how late you'll party and when you'll be in bed each night. While you don't need to go to sleep so early you miss out on the college experience, focusing on going to sleep around the same time each night will train your body to understand when it's downtime.

Tired College Student

Exercise is also a key step. While you shouldn't exercise fewer than three hours before bedtime, regular exercise will help you rest, keep your brain working well and help you avoid the freshman 15. When you exercise consistently, you may also be less inclined to overindulge in bad habits, like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, all of which negatively impact your ability to sleep well.

There are many other great ways to get solid rest. For example, turn off your computer if its screen saver distracts you. If there's too much noise in your dorm, turn on a fan to drown out the outside noise. The fan will also cool off the room, which makes sleep easier.

Finally, if you're having trouble settling down at night, don't force it. If sleep won't come, get up and find an activity that might calm you. This include reading or listening to soothing music. When possible, a warm bath or trip to the hot tub can also help.

Aside from getting a good night's sleep, college life presents many challenges and opportunities for which you should be prepared.

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